After “12 Years a Slave” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” I’d thought I’d seen all of the serious best actor candidates for this year. That was before I’d seen Matthew McConaughey’s performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”. The performance is simply outstanding: less showy that DiCapprio’s in “Wolf”; certainly less worthy than Ejiofor’s in “Slave”; but in my book, this would get my vote if I were an Oscar or BAFTA voter. He is nominated which is great: but I fear he won’t win.
It is almost impossible to like McConaughey’s character – Ron Woodroof – in this film. He is a racist, a bigot, a homophobe, a mysoginist, a drug and alcohol abuser and has streaks of violence simmering just under his hateful and hating Texan skin. If there was anyone you would cross the road to avoid, it would be him. And yet McConaughey fills the role with such power and such passion he makes the story utterly gripping. Seldom have 2 hours flown by quicker in the cinema. There have been three physical transformations this year that have made you think “that can’t be good for him”: the first was Christian Bale’s pot belly in “American Hustle”. And then there’s McConnaughey and co-star Jared Leto in this film. Recalling Tom Hank’s role in “Philadelphia”, clearly both actors have been on an extreme diet for a considerable period: less five:two diet and more a seven:zero diet. Painful to watch: why do actors do this to themselves?
The film, based on a true story, tells the story of Woodroof’s fight to stay alive against the ravages of Aids in the mid-80s: he refuses to lay down and die, as all the doctor’s predict, and goes on a one-man crusade to identify and bring into the country – against the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval – experimental drug combinations that will prolong his life. During this journey, of course, he comes into close contact with the gay community that in his previous life he so despised: and the mirror of his own past views is held up to him during his dramatic role-reversal through the reaction of his former ‘friends’ and colleagues to both himself and his new-found gay friends. This sets up a devastatingly powerful and emotional story.
Also of note are McConaughey’s two supporting actors: Jennifer Garner as his doctor friend Eve and (particularly) Jared Leto as his transsexual friend Rayon: receiving a well-deserved Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
A word of caution for those easily offended: Dallas Buyer’s Club features extensive sex and drug taking scenes, and whilst not as extreme as “Wolf of Wall Street”, this is also perhaps another one not to take your maiden aunt or squirming teenage son/daughter to see. But for everyone else, this is a highly recommended film. Delightfully un-sugar-coated, thoughtful and gripping, and a triumph for the leads, the writers (Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack) and Canadian-born director Jean-Marc Vallée (“The Young Victoria”).
Fad Rating: FFFFf.