Matthew McConaughey’s Amazing “Dallas Buyers Club”
By Skip Sheffield
Matthew McConaughey will be giving Robert Redford a run for his money in the 2014 Oscar sweepstakes. McConaughey’s gripping performance in “Dallas Buyers Club” will also provide strong competition for Tom Hanks and Chiwetel Ijiofor in the Best Actor category.
If that weren’t enough to boast a film’s merit, co-star Jared Leto is a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination.
“Dallas Buyers Club” is a story of a real man: rodeo rough neck and electrician Ron Woodroof. Woodroof was profiled near his death in 1992 by Bill Mintaglio of the Dallas Morning News. In order to play the skeletal role, McConaughey went on a crash diet to lose almost 50 pounds. Jared Leto lost around 30 pounds from an already slim frame to play a flamboyant gay transvestite known as Rayon.
The story, adapted for the screen by Melisa Wallack and Craig Borten, begins in July, 1985. After Woodroof is injured in an electrical accident, he awakens in a hospital to grim news. He is HIV Positive, announces impassive Dr. Sevard (Denis O’Hare). Woodroof does not take the news well. Worse, he is told he has only about 30 days to live.
In 1985 AIDS was becoming known as the “Gay Plague.” Not only was Ron Woodroof not homosexual, he was fiercely homophobic, dismissing gay men as “faggots” and “Tinker Belle.” It was not understood at that time that women can carry the HIV virus.
Once he got over his initial anger and disbelief, Woodroof set about proving medical science wrong. He bribed an orderly into providing him with AZT, an experimental drug being used against the AIDS virus. In doses too strong AZT is a deadly poison, Woodroof later learned from a renegade, discredited Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne) in a makeshift Mexican clinic.
With the help of the revolutionary, unproven potions of Dr. Vass and the moral support of sympathetic Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), the improvised team developed a regimen effective enough to sell to other victims through the Buyers Club of the title.
For this desperate role McConaughey leaves his handsome-hunk, leading-man image behind. He has never invested himself as fully in a character as he does in this redneck, racist, sexist, dishonest stereotype who finds his humanity through his own suffering and the suffering of others.
Musician (“30 Seconds to Mars”) turned actor Jared Leto proves he has the dramatic power to both make you laugh and pull at your heartstrings as the fragile, doomed Rayon.
“Dallas Buyers Club” French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee proves his mettle as well in leading this extraordinary motion picture. You may never feel the same about