Let me start off by saying that I didn’t know Matthew McConaughey could act this well. I’ll be honest, I didn’t give him much credit.
2 things recently have changed my mind on that foolish generalization on my part:
First, HBO’s new series “True Detective” which is hypnotic and remarkable…and I’ve only seen the first 2 episodes…
Second, his work in this film, which will stay with me forever.
Now Leto I knew had acting chops. I saw his work as Mark David Chapman in “Chapter 27”, “Fight Club”, “American Psycho” and have always recognized his dedication, talent and ability to be a chameleon.
But none of his work prepared me for what he brought to this film.
Throughout watching this I kept saying to myself over and over again…
“My god they are committed…”
“My god they are committed…”
“My god they are committed…”
There aren’t many films out there that:
A: Suck you into their worlds within moments of the films opening…
B: Pack not 1, but 2 powerhouse career altering completely dedicated and committed performances by 2 leading actors.
Last year I saw images of Matthew McConaughey during the filming of this movie and I was rocked by his drastic weightloss.
It’s on par with Christian Bale in Brad Anderson’s “The Machinest” 10 years back…
But I just saw his physique, I had no idea what type of performance he would turn in.
Yes, both he and Jared are unrecognizable here. But they fill these characters with authenticity. With a fervor for life and the passion to live.
That is really what this film is about…the passion to live… and this film is excellent.
This is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof, who was diagnosed with HIV and given 30 days to live after having contracted the disease having unprotected sex in the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. His passion to live and to fight for his life kicks in immediately and this is where the film opens, pretty much the day he finds out he has the disease.
Jennifer Garner and Dennis O’Hare ( FX’s “American Horror Story“) play the doctors who inform him of his condition They come to see him with face-masks on their face to deliver the news, as no one knows how easily it can be caught. The only treatment known at that point is the experimental AZT, which Ron is not eligible to receive as it’s still in clinical trials.
Ron gets ahold of the drug and takes it (along with cocaine, weed & alcohol) but it does nothing but make him feel horrible. When he goes through his supply, he returns to the hospital and is unable to procure more… and this is when he meets Rayon, played by Jared Leto.
He makes a beautiful woman, I’m just going to say it.
Rayon advises him not to take the AZT, that it is poison. Ron goes to Mexico to seek AZT from a different source. Ends up detoxing all the drugs out of his system and meeting a new doctor (Griffin Dunne) who educates him on alternative treatments and helps him clean out. These treatments are not approved by the FDA and not available to HIV patients in America, but unlike AZT, they are non toxic to the body and apparently have better success rates in reducing the symptoms of the virus.
Ron cleans up, gets on the new treatments…then sees an opportunity. Because patients can’t get these meds in America, and because there only option is also not readily available to them yet, Ron starts the “Dallas Buyers Club“.
Membership is $400 a month and you get all the meds you need. He partners up with Rayon and they begin taking care of the patients who can’t get help anywhere else.
People are suffering, and in the storm of pain and loss and uncertainty is Ron Woodroof, working along with his transgender partner, offering assistance to people they can’t get anywhere else and educating them on how to live better in the wake of this epidemic. Ron is smart and he becomes hyper knowledgeable about this disease how to fight it. He survives the original 30 day death sentence and the more he learns, the more he educates people on the dangers of the AZT drug that the hospitals and doctors are pushing on them.
Ron is also a bit homophobic. On first meeting Rayon, Ron flat out doesn’t like him. Ron is an electrician from Texas, a bull rider on his off days and an all American alpha male.
Discovering he has the disease is a shocker to him, as common knowledge then was that it was a homosexual disease. When his friends learn he is sick they all turn on him and he is thrusted into a new life and lifestyle. He was now a member of the gay community indirectly, whether he liked it or not.
This sensitive storyline is not shied away from by director Jean-Marc Vallée , but faced head on. And it’s that the flaws and ugliness of Ron’s personality are thrown up on the screen blatantly like this, that we aren’t insulted by this film…because honestly, had this ben some huge Hollywood film, which thank the fucking gods it’s not,we would have gotten watered down stereotypical characters…not brutally honest and real ones like we get here.
We, as an audience, are treated as adults here. This allows us to better see the contrast between Ron and Rayon, to admire their chemistry and relish in watching Ron evolve as a character.
Executed wonderfully by the director and the actors…the tenderness of this central relationship is handled beautifully by all involved. Leto and McConaughey are fucking electric in this film. Brave and natural, this is hard core acting here people. The work being done by them both is astonishing. I’m not trying to use a big adjective here….it really is astonishing.
The two actors here…the chemistry between them…it’s a shared performance in a way. Each performance here is remarkable on its own…and each one is immense in respect to each of the respective actor’s careers. But both performances combined complement each other so completely and brilliantly that they further enrich and elevate this wonderful film to a standout performance showcase for both McConaughey and Leto.
Canadian film maker Jean-Marc Vallée directed this film. A distinctive & fresh new voice. I imagine he encouraged these actors to be as brave as they are here perhaps…his sensibilities and taste, his sense of pacing and his eye have served this film oh so well. This isn’t a fluff piece, it doesn’t make the characters look great all the time, it’s honest and in its honesty is a true beauty that the polished Hollywood big-budget films spend millions of dollars to fabricate…and never come close to delivering. Delivering the fantastic work and energy that emanates from each frame of this film.
This film moves quickly and certainly, it’s doesn’t waste any time and it feels real. It’s one of those movies where you forget you’re watching a film because you’re so sucked in by the story and performances, you don’t have time to think about it.
Those, in my opinion, are the best films. Period.
I haven’t seen Jean-Marc Vallée’s two earlier films, 2005’s “C.R.A.Z.Y.” & 2009’s “The Young Victoria” yet…but I’m going to remedy that within the next few days.
The awards are going to come, the awards are deserved.
God damn well deserved.
High Octane Gasoline People.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, JARED LETO & JENNIFER GARNER: