Matthew McConnaughey is undoubtedly the center of Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013; dir. Jean-Marc Vallée). I’m not surprised the film earned him the Best Actor Oscar, but I would not have been surprised if other recent films had done the same for him. His role in HBO’s True Detective this past season was one of the best character portrayals I’ve seen on television, or in film for that matter. Dallas Buyer’s Club is basically a character study, and once it establishes itself as a film about a hard-living lower class cowboy who discovers he has AIDs (he’s told he has 30 days to live), the film proceeds to detail how his struggle to deal with adversity makes him a better man. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that often worked theme, and it makes for an entertaining film. The film reminds us of what the early years of the AIDS epidemic were like—when few people understood the disease, how it was transmitted, who was most likely to get it, how it might be treated. At first McConnaughey’s character Ron Woodruff refuses to see that he has anything in common with more conventional AIDS victims—gay men—he’s probably acquired the disease through using dirty needles--and he’s interested only in finding drugs that will cure him of the disease. As he discovers outlets in Mexico and elsewhere that sell drugs not yet approved by the FDA, he sets up a buyer’s club that allows him, through a legal loophole, to sell those drugs to AIDS victims. At first his motive is to make money. Gradually his motives and sympathies shift, and he becomes a crusader for AIDS victims. The film makes a strong and disturbing argument against how slowly things moved in the 1980s as scientists used well established painstaking methods to develop and test drugs for treating the disease. The FDA’s conservatism, defensible in many situations, in the case of the fast spreading AIDS epidemic meant that many people died before drugs for treating it that were already available in other countries were approved. The film isn’t insensitive to the fact that use of unproven drugs could be dangerous. Woodruff’s developing friendship with the transsexual Rayon (Jared Leto) and with Doctor Eve (Jennifer Garner) are at the film’s heart.