As a movie star, Matthew McConaughey is more known for his shirtless torso than his talent as an actor. However, in the past two years, he had been taking on roles that have been attracting Oscar talk. The association of McConaughey and Oscar was previously unthinkable.
Last Oscar night, McConaughey and co-star Jared Leto both won the awards for which they were heavily favored to win. Yes, with this Best Actor Oscar and an acclaimed performance in HBO series "True Detective," McConaughey has finally arrived as a serious actor.
Set in the 1980s, "Dallas Buyers Club" is the name of a club whose membership allows AIDS patients to acquire bootleg medications not yet approved by the FDA. This was established by the most unlikely person, the womanizing, boozing, homophobic, rodeo-loving, redneck drug-addict Ron Woodroof (McConaughey).
When AZT was not working well for him, Woodroof sought out a maverick doctor in Mexico supplying these experimental drugs, and smuggled them back to the States. Together with Rayon (Jared Leto), a flamboyant transsexual also with HIV, as his unlikely business partner, Woodroof fought the establishment on behalf of AIDS victims and their access to medications.
Leto was unrecognizable both physically and behaviorally as Rayon. This lead singer of the rock band 30 Seconds to Mars had completely transformed into a different person. Leto was very active in films from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. He was in notable films like "Requiem of a Dream" and "Fight Club." His last memorable role was in the infamous "Alexander" in 2004, which sort of presages this present role of his. He has come back to film a big way this year in this darkly comic role.
Matthew McConaughey had been stereotyped in shallow rom-coms throughout the 2000s in films like "The Wedding Planner," "Failure to Launch" and "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past." The awards buzz started in 2012 with his roles in "Bernie," "Killer Joe," "The Paperboy" and especially "Magic Mike," all flirting with Oscar talk.
For 2013, he continued his streak with "Mud," a marked cameo in "Wolf of Wall Street," and finally this one in "Dallas Buyers Club." His physical transformation from his well-known buff surfer body to that of an emaciated AIDS patient was impressive. But more importantly, it was his total commitment to this complicated role that gave him the big prize.
The film itself is well-made by director Jean Marc Vallee, with disturbing images of Woodroof's raunchy lifestyle contrasting with his crusading work later in life. For many, it may be a bit too slowly paced and may seem repetitive at points. But this film is really all about Matthew McConaughey and his growth as an actor. His performance as Ron Woodroof is the main attraction of this film. 7/10.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."