Matthew McConaughey is having a banner year that may land him in the front seats at the Academy Awards this year, if not on the stage. His performance in Mud, earlier this year was note worthy. And, here he is again in Dallas Byers Club. The story line - no spoiler here if you have seen any trailers- is Ron Woodruf (McConaughey) is rough bull riding electrician who ends of up with a diagnosis of HIV (and a prognosis of 30 days to live) due to his years of womanizing.
Not willing to take this sitting down, he goes to extremes to find anything that will keep him alive. While McConaughey gets the publicity for this movie, I really thought the strong roles were played by Jared Leto as Rayon, the transvestite, who befriends Ron and becomes an ally and business partner and Jennifer Garner as Eve Sacks, his doctor, who realizes that traditional treatment may be doing more harm that good to the AIDS community. Both Leto and Garner come through with incredible performances, especially Leto.
The film shows many us, unaware of the back story here, the issues going on in the medical community as it tried to come to grips with the HIV disease. It took a while for the FDA and most traditional doctors to get past the social aspects of the disease and realize that no one had the luxury of the traditional time it took to bring drugs to the American market, and everyone needed to look outside the box and consider alternative treatments. Even the legal system found itself caught up in both archaic and arcane laws that in some ways prevented people from getting progressive help for themselves.
McConaughey's physical transformation for this role shows his dedication to serious acting. Woodruf's physique is as far as one can get from the beautiful buff McConaughey sported in his early RomCom films - a genre he is trying to put in his rear view mirror as he moves into serious cinema. And, with his performances in Mud and, now, the Dallas Buyers Club, it would be hard for any critic to not take him as a seriously talented actor now. Those days of romantic comedy are behind him. (I guess that body is now just a thing of our dreams and reruns.)
This is good movie: a great story with strong performances. That said, I was a little disappointed.This is a prime example where a little less hype would have served the film well. I'm not sure what my expectations were, but I left feeling, "Well, that was good, and the acting was great and I learned a lot from the story, but it wasn't as good as the hype." Don't get me wrong, I highly recommend this movie, go see it. Perhaps I read too many reviews and see too many trailers and expect too much. I am sure tomorrow, after some reflection, I, too, will feel this was one of the better films this year. If nothing else, Leto's performance as Rayon, is haunting.