It seems every year there is a performance from an actor that transcends dedication. They immerse themselves into the character, often involving physical appearance. In 2012 it was Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”, and he took home the Oscar for Best Actor. This year there are two of those performances, both coming from one film: “Dallas Buyers Club”.
An unrecognizable Matthew McConaughey is Ron Woodroof, a real-life cowboy living in 1985 Dallas, Texas. When Woodroof is given the news that he has AIDS, he begins to investigate and then sell alternative forms of medicine, and founds the Dallas Buyers Club. Jean-Marc Vallee directs.
McConaughey lost 38 pounds for the role of Woodroof, and his performance is as just as dedicated. He plays a flawed man, partaking in drugs and sex (it was the ‘80’s, after all) and is shocked when he is given the diagnosis. However once he comes to terms with his condition, he begins to fight the FDA and hospitals, whom he claims are only worsening the condition of AIDS victims, all while running his own drug-dealing ring.
One of the patients Ron comes in contact with is Rayon, a cross dressing AIDS victim played masterfully by Jared Leto. Leto himself lost 40 pounds for the role and it shows. But his portrayal of Rayon is memorizing and it is one of the more dedicated performances in recent memory. Right away we see that Rayon is tender and a lover of life, however his drug abuse may be getting in the way of his health and chances of beating the disease.
While “Dallas” rests purely on the scrawny shoulders of McConaughey and Leto, the movie has moments of genuine humor and wit. Seeing Woodroof try and get between the Mexico and the United States border in various disguises is entertaining, and the scenes where Ron takes on the possibly corrupt FDA will make viewers just as frustrated as Woodroof and Rayon. It connects with viewers, as we realize that many of government agencies that we trust to keep us healthy and safe may not have our best interests at heart.
The only flaws with the movie are the final fifteen minutes feel a bit drawn out, and the film doesn’t seem to know when it wants to end. It has several scenes where it seems to be rapping up, only to open another door it must then close.
In a career of underappreciated performances, Matthew McConaughey should finally get the attention, and more importantly the praise, that he has long deserved. His performance is full of every human emotion in the book, and we find ourselves rooting for Ron, even when his flaws and inner-evils come to light.
With two truly masterful performances from McConaughey and Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club” is an entertaining and heartwarming movie, while at the same time being brutally honest, frustrating and devastating.
Critics Rating: 8/10