As his star rose in the early years of the last decade he was only vaguely on the radar of this relatively fervent cinema goer. If I saw any of the fluff back then he was known for, I have no recollection of it. I doubt if I ever braved titles like ‘The Wedding Planner’, Failure to Launch’ or ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’. The gossip magazines were in love with him and he was a babe magnet of the first order. He was awarded the dubious sobriquet of ‘People Magazine’s’ ‘Sexiest Man Alive 2005’ – enough said for where his career was at then. The titles of his ouevre were as inconsequential to me as probably their substance was inconsequential to him in the long run. Reportedly, towards the end of the decade, this caused him to sit down and have a long hard think about where his career was headed. He started rejecting the fluff and waited for substance to come – and waited. He was without work for a year but no worries – the fluff had ensured he wasn’t penniless and eventually his patience was rewarded. Some film makers were prepared to take a chance on him for more demanding, character driven roles – and he didn’t let them down. This man could act!
He garnered positive reviews in titles like ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, ‘Magic Mike’ and ‘Mud’ – all unseen by me. But I leapt to attention when he presented as the sleazy scene stealer in the opening stanzas to ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. On the basis of this and his ’14 Academy Award nomination, in best actor category, for the film, I made a beeline to see ‘Dallas Buyers’ Club’ when it arrived on a Hobart screen. It proved to me his turn in the Scorsese offering was no fluke.
Sexy Matthew McConaughey was not in this role. He starved himself to skeletal proportions for it and resembled a gangly cross between flamingo and giraffe. It was not a charmless performance as he could turn it on, particularly in some scenes with Jennifer Garner’s Dr Eve Saks. Otherwise, throughout this tale based on a real life anti-hero, he was venality personified. He used the early years of the AIDS epidemic to turn a buck after what initially was a project in self survival. He was, at his core, a rampant homophobe, indulging in an excess of drugs and alcohol. Equally he was an enthusiastic participant in sex with any willing strumpet. The consequences of the latter for his character, Ron Woodroff, were appalling. (It must be noted that the real Ron was very possibly gay, or at least bi.)
At the movie’s commencement the ‘fictional’ Ron was a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ (up) amateur rodeo carny come electrician, who, due to an accident in the latter guise, finds he is HIV positive. The discoveries he makes in researching his affliction to prolong his prognosis time – one month – sees him become a gay saviour of sorts. As well, he raises the ire of the powerful vested interests in the health system of the good ol’ U S of A. The movie is not, though, a case of a Hollywood ‘David v Goliath’ with the little guy winning out. Back in those days, the combination of AIDS and the big drug companies took no prisoners – the end for Ron, as well as for his cause, was inevitable.
‘Dallas Buyers’ Club’ is an intelligent, warts and all portrayal of a scourge whose edges we have softened but are yet to defeat. The movie is immensely enhanced by Jared Leto’s superb turn as the transsexual who softens our Ron’s heart. It is not top drawer this film, but is none the less a quality product and I suspect this role is the pinnacle Matthew McConaughey will be remember for – but who knows what the future holds for an actor I well and truly know now.
Official Site ‘Dallas Buyers’ Club’ = http://www.focusfeatures.com/dallas_buyers_club