We did not know how the virus spread and let fear and stupidity rule the day. Like Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" told of witches, demons and man's feeble attempt to deal with that which he did not understand, this threat came in the form of a virus about which then few -- even scientists and doctors -- understood. We think in our era we are better than that but, no, I suspect we are the same as we continue to see the "other" demonized, marginalized, forbidden to enjoy the happiness of life, wearing the same scarlet letter worn by Nathaniel Hawthorne's Puritan woman, Hester Prynn, in his 19th century novel and our "others" are, too, even killed in our time.
This film, a true story, is as riveting as it is sad. Sad that we as a nation wasted precious time to solve the problem because we could not look at the ugliness of AIDS and we could not stop thinking it was a gay disease. It wasn't just a gay disease it was an every man's disease as the virus made no exception as to its host. So many would not touch those we deemed untouchable. It was an era of ignorance, hatred, and vicious homophobia as if it were not enough that gays of that time hated themselves and did not need the mark of Cain or the scarlet letter to fuel the fans of hatred already entrenched while their bodies were ransacked, brutalized and killed by an intractable disease.
Matthew McConaughey was brilliant. This year, The Best Actor Academy Award category will be a hard one from which to choose, indeed, as those nominated for it are excellent in their own right and McConaughey is no less so. Jared Leto as supporting actor won the Golden Globe award and may win the Academy Award as well. He was superb as a sweet but hopeless transvestite and perhaps transsexual-wanna-be fighting this disease in a world that did not allow him those feelings nor did it have an FDA-approved treatment (except the multi-side effects AZT) for AIDS and no expedited avenue for approval of other possibly life saving drugs.
This may be a difficult-to-watch film but it is a necessary-to-watch film as we try, however, feebly, to exorcise our own demons and frailties from our essence in our time.