Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Studio: Truth Entertainment / Voltage Pictures
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
When Matthew McConaughey made his much-hyped movie debut back in the ’90s, he was all bronze, swagger and chiseled torso, a good ole boy with cock-of-the-walk charm and druggy eyes. Then came some big-screen letdowns, his eyebrow-raising stark naked bongo-playing marijuana bust and his descent into vapid rom-coms and nasty punch lines. But revenge must be freaking sweet, because his recent renaissance in such movies as Magic Mike, Killer Joe and Mud is among the bigger and more satisfying astonishments of contemporary Hollywood.
With his latest movie, Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey, now 44, surpasses himself. The fact-based movie, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria) from a screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack about a highly unlikely ’80s AIDS activist, gives McConaughey the role of a swaggering, loudmouthed, quick-tempered Texas dumb-ass bigot, a rodeo circuit big wheel and compulsive ladies’ man who is stunned when doctors hand him a diagnosis of HIV in 1985. Shunned by his macho friends but thumbing his nose at doctors’ predictions that he’ll be dead in weeks, he decides to make money by setting himself up in a sleazy motel as a source for others suffering from the deadly virus desperate for non FDA–approved AIDS drugs he obtains from Mexico. In the hospital, he meets a charming cross-dressing ally (Jared Leto, in a killer performance) who goes into business with him in this Dallas Buyers Club as his go-between with gays and other outlaws.
Their unlikely, prickly relationship is the heartbeat of a sad, powerful movie that is essentially about people fighting for their lives when the medical community was struggling to find answers and the obstructionist drug companies and the government shrugged their collective shoulders, dragged their heels and simply let people die. The film is unsentimental and the unforgettable, award-worthy performances of McConaughey and Leto are among the very best of a very good year.