The McConaussance continues! Not so long ago, Matthew McConaughey had almost completely disappeared under a mountain of punch lines about rom coms, shirtlessness and the subtleties of nude bongo playing. Then came a string of great performances in great movies like Bernie, Killer Joe and Mud. I haven’t seen Wolf of Wall Street yet, but his short appearance in the trailer stands out every time I watch it. And with his recent Golden Globe win, the McConaughey comeback is moving from critical acclaim to award recognition with Dallas Buyers Club.
Based on a true story, McConaughey is Ron Woodroof, a red blooded Texan man’s man in mid 80s America who loves rodeos and rootin’. He also finds out that he’s contracted HIV. In the mid 80s, common belief was that HIV was exclusively for gay dudes and junkies. And because being a red blooded Texan man’s man also meant being a pretty keen homophobe, this diagnosis does not sit well with Woodroof or his friends.
Given 30 days to live, he goes through denial and anger, before moving on to acceptance and finagling experimental drugs from the local hospital, where he was originally diagnosed by Jennifer Garner’s Eve, and met Jared Leto’s cross dressing Rayon, another HIV sufferer. When the experimental meds run out, Woodroof finds himself in Mexico, where a de-licensed American doctor (Griffin Dunne) prescribes a regiment of vitamins and supplements not yet approved in the US.
More than just a life saver for himself, Woodroof sees the Mexican drugs as a money spinner when sold to other HIV and AIDS patients in his home state. With the help of Rayon, he starts the titular Dallas Buyers Club. By charging membership dues, then ‘giving away’ the meds, he can sell drugs legally, while technically not selling drugs.
Because no one would be interested in the story of an exploitative drug dealer, Woodroof evolves into a legit advocate for alternative medications and fighting the corporate lapdogs of the Food and Drug Administration who are more inclined to approve drugs that come with big pay offs, than those that don’t line the FDA’s pockets.
At this stage, I’ve seen most of the performances that got Oscar nominations this year. And it’s a rare occasion when I think the Golden Globes got it right. Both McConaughey and Leto are undeniably amazing in Dallas Buyers Club. There’s so much more to Ron Woodroof than McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss. He goes from cocky rodeo lothario, to tragic victim, to green eyed opportunist, to passionate advocate in the space of 2 hours, and it never feels rushed or unearned.
And there’s so much more to Rayon than feminine affectations and a dude in a parade of dresses and wigs. Leto makes you understand and sympathise with him, even at his most self destructive.
Dallas Buyers Club is this year’s indie scrapper, punching above its weight for a place in the Oscars against studio heavy weights like Wolf of Wall Street American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave. And while it might not get seen by as many people as its competition, the Golden Globes success shows that people who do see it, remember it.