Matthew McConaughey’s pretty good year (Mud, Magic Mike, The Paperboy, and The Wolf of Wall Street) comes to a brilliant close with his latest gritty, Oscar worthy acting moment in Dallas Buyers Club. The based on real life story of homophobe Dallas electrician Ron Woodruff battle with AIDS, The FDA and big pharma at first to keep himself alive and then as an activist for the thousands disenfranchised HIV victims lacking access to the latest blind study or the newest European wonder drug not authorized for use in the USA. McConaughey dumped 40 pounds to play the role and his body is a brittle skeleton with a thread of flesh. All that is left is his will– and that is enough.
Director Jean-Marc Vallee wisely strips the proceedings of sentimentality. It is all purpose, looking to get the job done, no time to think because death is knocking. The clarity generates alliances from former enemies. Jared Leto is in wonderful Blanche du Bois mode as a transsexual named Rayon who is not only Wodruff’s business partner but his bickering love-hate friend. There is an affecting physical and emotional element to Leto’s performance that balances between outing his feminine and closeting his masculine sides. McConaughey and Leto are great foils for each other.
Buyers Club only has time to show desperate sex– hot, sweaty, quick, impulsive and passionate only for the moment. Romance, whether it is the echo of buddy bonding or the hints of real compatibility between the debauched cowboy and the sweet, virginal MD who comes to believe in Woodruff and his cause is all in the air. It evaporates into dust because Buyers Club mission does not allow for such traditional movie sentiment. It does not have hope for the promises of a normal life. The shadow of AIDS displaces any hopes for a conventional reality.
Woodruff is the role of a lifetime for McConaughey, for which everything before it was just preparation. Sympathy mixed with menace is the hallmark of all great McConaughey roles. A familiar type molded to a perfectly errant humanity. McConaughey is wonderfully, agonizing alive for every second of his on screen life. Yep, Oscar nominations will come, and maybe even a win and McConaughey will be wryly smiling through it all.
Dallas Buyers Club gets an A from me.