The film begins with a scene you would almost laughably expect in a Matthew McConaughey film from 10 years ago, with him having aggressive sex with 2 women at once. This however, is not the same McConaughey we all enjoyed parodying years ago, as the actor over the past 5 years has managed to completely reinvent himself as an actor, bringing us into the era of the McConaissance. “Dallas Buyers Club”, while not a groundbreaking achievement, does benefit extremely from an “all-in” performance never seen before from McConaughey.
The plot revolves around the true story of Ron Woodroof(McConaughey), a Texas electrician who likes to spend his days partying hard and gambling. This all changes in 1985 when he contracts HIV and told he has 30 days to live. Ever the stubborn cowboy, he is determined to find a way to live. This is achieved through the smuggling of “unapproved” medication from other countries, which he then sells to other HIV victims. In the process, he becomes an unlikely advocate for HIV victims, despite his lifelong bigotry towards them.
McConaughey has already given a fantastic performance this year in “Mud” and looks to continue his hot streak in “The Wolf of Wall Street” this Christmas. It’s still surprising looking at his career arc. After spending the better part of the 2000s making underwhelming romantic comedies, he has now become one of the best and most exciting working actors. Alongside him in this film is Jared Leto, stepping out of the musical spotlight to play the role of Rayon, Ron’s transgender business partner. Leto gives a tremendous, courageous performance in a role that could have been easily overacted. Both actors lost tremendous amounts of weight to get the gaunt look that the disease would give them, and while that effort should be noted, it is only one aspect of the incredible performances given by them. They embody each of their characters past the physicality, and into each little tick and response. Their interactions together create the heart of the story. Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Kevin Rankin and the rest of the supporting cast each give solid supporting performances as well.
Jean Marc-Vallée directs the film admirably with a docudrama feel that the gravity of the time period deserves. Artistic directorial flourishes are not forced into the film, as that would most likely distract from the material. But when they do, they are quite touching. One scene involves Ron walking into a room full of butterflies, and stands there as they fly on and around him. It’s a beautifully surreal moment, and completely unlike the rest of the film.
“Dallas Buyers Club”, while feeling safe and peripherally viewed at times, still manages to be quite a triumph due to McConaughey and Leto’s performances. On the McConaissance scale, it definitely deserves an “Alright, alright, alright”.