Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner
Award winning Canadian director, Jean-Marc Vallée directs this biopic about Ron Woodroof, a con man who defied the odds, and the law, to get the medicine he needed to survive; and in the process brought hope and peace to many others. It is a well scripted, if linear, film that unfolds as McConaughey’s Woodroof learns about himself and the world around him at the height of the HIV scare in America.
What I liked: It’s no wonder the Hollywood machine has been buzzing around the performances of the two lead actors, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Quite simply, the heart and soul of the movie is in the acting. Both McConaughey and Leto utterly, and literally, morph into their characters – a scheming rodeo bigot and suffering transvestite. It is rare that such prominent Hollywood personalities would be unrecognizable but such is the case thanks to Vallée’s brilliant directing and seamless performances from actors who didn’t just lose weight but altered their mannerisms, their features, their voices and even something as simple as a smile. There is a moment at the end of the film where Woodroof, exhausted and achingly thin walks into a room of familiar faces and smiles. That smile expresses all of the film’s tension, emotion and beauty because it is so clearly Woodroof’s smile, not McConaughey’s.
What I didn’t like: My only complaint about the film is that there’s nothing new in the telling. After a mind-blowing experience watching Gravity, Dallas Buyers Club felt a little flat. I recognize that the two movies are not comparable but I still wanted perhaps more artistic license and vision from a director who has proven capable of both.
Last thoughts: As usual, Hollywood is placing more emphasis on the physical transformation of the actors than on the performance itself. Granted, McConaughey is so physically transformed that at times it’s tough to look at his sickly frame but I would hope that if either of them win the Oscar it’s for their performances and not because they know how to diet for a role.
My rating: Between this and Mud, McConaughey has two of my favourite performances of the year.