Trailer: Dallas Buyers Club
In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.PT3M0S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-321cj 620 349 February 5, 2014
(MA, 116 minutes). Opens Thursday.
Five years on from his unlikely renaissance via 2009's The Lincoln Lawyer, former heart-throb turned indie king Matthew McConaughey goes for broke with what could well be his most affecting on-screen turn yet, in Jean-Marc Vallee's intelligently played biographical drama.
Inhabiting the real-life persona of Ron Woodroof - a devil-may-care electrician suddenly struck down by AIDS in 1985 - McConaughey had to drop 20 kilograms to emulate Woodroof's emaciated frame.
Our first whiff of him is immediate: in the opening frame, he is engaged in unprotected sex with a nubile female admirer, before riding the rodeo. The Texan's lust for hedonistic excess is made clear.
Woodroof was, it appears, little more than a cocksure, homophobic redneck, until a back-alley encounter with a prostitute led to him contracting HIV. Faced with his own mortality - and frustrating levels of bureaucracy from the US government - he headed south of the border, where a Mexican-based doctor provided him with the drugs he desperately needed to stay alive. Since the US was only trialling one drug (that was proving dubious and deadly), Woodroof sniffed an opportunity.
Before long, he was bringing suitcases of the stuff up into Dallas, masquerading as a priest, signing up fellow sufferers at $400 a pop. So began the Dallas Buyers Club. Inevitably, the supporting cast here is overshadowed by McConaughey's storming delivery as Woodroof. Jared Leto, who dons drag to play Woodroof's unlikely transgender friend and ally, Rayon, provides some necessary colour. Jennifer Garner - who coincidentally co-starred with McConaughey in his last rom-com affair, 2009's underwhelming The Ghost of Girlfriends Past - also registers, without threatening her co-star's dominance on screen.
McConaughey has emerged in recent weeks as a dark horse contender for this year's best actor Oscar, which feels rather apt. Since last appearing on screen with Garner, he has turned his career around, in an increasingly unexpected and thrilling fashion.
It wasn't so long ago that a new McConaughey vehicle would have elicited groans and rolls of the eyes from critics' circles. Now, the opposite is true. He has quietly, meticulously reworked his resume and his persona to emerge as something vital and unique on screen, while also broadening his appeal.
For his five-year plan to be so effective is a feat in itself. For it to culminate with this most accomplished performance is the sign of an actor at the very top of his game.