YEP – It’s one of the oldest tricks in the actor playbook. Wanna be taken seriously? Lose (or gain) a ton of weight and then step back and let the shower of film critics’ accolades drench your scrawny (or bloated) frame.
Personally, I’ve always thought Matthew McConaughey was a decent actor.
Early films like Dazed and Confused, Lone Star, Amistad, Contact, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Frailty, and We Are Marshall, as well as recent films The Lincoln Lawyer and Mud, demonstrate more than just a bronze tan, washboard abs, and dimples. Unfortunately, films like Sahara, Failure to Launch, Fool’s Gold, Magic Mike and the inexplicable Surfer Dude made him a punchline to “shirtless guy” jokes everywhere. A tough bell to un-ring. Hard to argue he didn’t bring it on himself.
Well, McConaughey haters, hold on to your lug nuts, cuz the 2005 People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive heart throb from Longview, Texas is about to earn his first Oscar nomination for his balls to the walls portrayal of rodeo bull rider Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club.
This is a tough film. Woodruff’s true story is that of a drunken, sex-crazed, degenerate drug addict bull rider running wild in Dallas, 1985; a lifestyle that caught up with him in the form of the mysterious HIV virus.
The sex is graphic and dirty, the characters are low brow and unsympathetic. This is an unsavory world. And McConaughey’s performance pulls no punches. While the script ultimately delivers a tepid climax – at best – you never doubt for one moment the actor’s portrayal of his dilemma. Unfortunately, his dilemma consists of not much more than struggling with the side effects of his doctor prescribed AZT and the illegal bootlegging of his Mexican life-extender, Peptide.
“Screw the FDA, man,” he says to one of his doctors, unconvincingly played by Jennifer Garner. “I’m gonna be D.O.A.”
It’s a sad story with an unhappy ending. How could it not be. But as a film it runs out of gas and sputters to the finish line.
Come Oscar season, however, the real buzz will focus on Jared Leto‘s turn as an infected transvestite. Like McConaughey, Leto goes for broke here, boosting the film’s emotional core with easily the best performance of his otherwise pedestrian career. He may just win.
Not necessarily a film that needs to be seen on the big screen, and by no means make the mistake of bringing anyone under 17. The sex and the language are rough and unapologetic.