Of course, the actual minute details of Ron Woodroof's life have been filled in and glossed over. There's no way to know for sure how he contracted HIV, for instance, or just what went down behind the scenes of the offices he and Rayon set up in a rundown motel. It doesn't matter, really. What matters is that for a film based in truth, Dallas Buyers Club feels electrified by a commitment to storytelling over fact-finding. Though its characters are withering away, the film is remarkably alive. We follow the man and the mission here, but to get to the latter, we have to pass through the experiences, connections, and motives of the former. Woodroof is never falsely elevated, and the film makes it clear that in starting the Buyers Club he's interested in saving himself, turning a profit, and raising a middle finger to the FDA. What's compelling, of course, are the curious ways he adapts, and the people he meets along the way.
Ron and Rayon become a sort of odd couple. Their friendship is one, at first, of necessity, and they are bound together by their business and their death sentence. Despite their tremendous differences, they're similar: stubborn, type-A survivalists. As time passes, they become family. It's hard to recall a time when Leto was this good, perhaps because he never has been. After a few years off the grid, though, Leto's Rayon is a career-resurrecting performance. He disappears into the character, becomes her. When Leto and McConaughey share the screen, it's hard to know where to look. They've brought their A-game, they look their parts, act them, and push their true life characters from biopic imitations to living, breathing people. In Dallas Buyers Club, everything is right. Like Ron himself, the film finds its heart without losing its edge.