Hollywood’s current renaissance man, Matthew McConaughey, is almost completely unrecognisable as he radically transforms his much-beloved physique into a skeletal wasteland. Enjoying a rather impressive career revival (The Lincoln Lawyer, Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street), the severity of McConaughey’s method acting pushes the actor to his absolute limits in order to deliver a tour-de-force performance that makes his career’s earlier ‘heart-throb’ antics a very distant (and welcomed) memory.
Dallas Buyers Club (directed by Jean-Marc Vallee) makes for some rather uncomfortable viewing at times, as it shines a light on the spread and ill-treatment of the AIDS virus across a largely anti-gay America during the 1980’s. McConaughey plays the real-life persona of Ron Woodroof, a hard-living, savagely homophobic cowboy who discovers that he has somehow contracted the AIDS virus and has approximately 30 days left to live.
While we’ve seen actors dramatically starve their bodies before (see Christian Bale for most of the details), McConaughey strips away the kilos to such an extremely unhealthy degree, that one would believe without question that this is a man on the precipice of dying. His gaunt and emaciated frame is truly disturbing to witness up close and personal, considering the touted and sculpted specimen that people know him to be.
While Woodroof is expectedly defiant and flippant at first, he eventually comes to terms with his situation and this is where the film kicks into its more enjoyable, humourous and uplifting gear.
Seeking a miracle cure, Woodroof goes on a quest to procure experimental non-FDA approved pharmaceuticals by any means necessary. With the help of a renegade doctor in Mexico, Woodroof becomes an unlikely saviour to the thousands of AID-sufferers in the Texas region, by illegally transporting banned drugs across the border and using memberships known as ‘Buyers Clubs’ to give the drugs away for free.
As masterful as McConaughey’s latest turn truly is, special mention also applies to his eventual business partner Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who completely disappears into a role that could have easily become farcical or parodic. At first, Woodroof’s hateful prejudices toward the gay community, contrast brilliantly with Rayon’s flamboyant and sassy demeanour. As time passes, the two eventually form a bond that is filled with genuine heart.
Watching Woodroof’s growth from trailer-trash bigot to a relentless advocate to expose medical and social injustice is handled with precision and avoids feeling manufactured or derivative.
With the Oscar buzz soaring around this picture, I am glad to report that it’s all quite well deserved. Both performances (Lead and Supporting) are equally worthy of the highest possible praise.