(US - 2013)
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. Written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn, Denis O'Hare, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Kevin Rankin, Michael O'Neill. (R, 116 mins)
One of the best things to happen to American cinema over the past couple of years has been seeing Matthew McConaughey actually giving a shit about acting and finally living up to the media hype that came with his 1996 breakthrough A TIME TO KILL. Up until a few years ago, after a string of vapid romantic comedies that was broken up by an occasional hit like 2006's WE ARE MARSHALL, his career bottomed out with 2008's SURFER, DUDE, a vanity project that reinforced every shirtless, laid-back, nude bongo-playing, stoner stereotype that turned him into a punchline. By then, even his most ardent defenders had grown tired of his schtick. He took a break and returned with 2011's THE LINCOLN LAWYER, followed by a universally-acclaimed 2012 that saw supporting turns in Richard Linklater's BERNIE and Steven Soderbergh's MAGIC MIKE, along with his terrifying performance and an instantly-legendary scene involving a chicken leg in William Friedkin's KILLER JOE. This year already saw one Oscar-caliber performance in Jeff Nichols'MUD. With the fact-based DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, McConaughey makes it known once and for all that he's a Serious Actor, losing nearly 40 lbs to play AIDS patient Ron Woodroof.
CHAPTER 27), has never been better and creates a sympathetic and truly tragic figure. As good as he is and as committed as he is to the project, McConaughey's physical appearance--think Christian Bale's weight loss for THE MACHINIST--makes a bigger impression than his acting here. He's very good, and an Oscar nomination is pretty much guaranteed, but he was better in both KILLER JOE and MUD, and his performance, like the entire film, has too much of an "Oscar bait" feeling to it. Looking back and replaying DALLAS BUYERS CLUB in your head, you may find yourself being more impressed with Leto when it's all said and done.