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25 Movies to See Before the Oscars: 6. Dallas Buyers Club

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Nominations: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling

When a man is so clearly obsessed with himself, as actor Matthew McConaughey clearly is, it really does get in the way of seeing how talented he really is. The truth is that he’s always been a great actor – his turn as lawyer Jake Brigance in the 1996 screen adaptation of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill is still staggering and powerful, not to mention his roles in U-571 and Frailty – and he’s always made an, if somewhat circumventive, effort to prove that. After years of peacocking his lovely bronzed abs for the women (and probably men too) who worship at the rom-com altar, McConaughey began to make a concerted effort once again. With great roles in Bernie, Killer Joe, and Mud he got himself back on the radar. Then he made a leap for the prize with his role as a veteran stripper in Magic Mike. But as the shameless display of his physique ended up garnering nothing solid, the next would be to prove he could be as commanding without that body. Now presenting Dallas Buyers Club.

Buyers Club is the real-life story of Ron Woodruff (McConaughey), a swindling, boozing, drug-addled lothario whose careless sexual appetite lands him with full-blown AIDS in the middle of the epidemic in 1985. Refusing his diagnosis of thirty days left to live, Woodruff finds medical restitution in Mexico, finding a number of drugs that seem to improve his health. With things going so well, Woodruff starts smuggling the drugs back to his home Texas and sets up a buyers’ club to turn easy money – except that his homophobic tendencies scare off his potential clientele. Enter Rayon, played by the kindred thirty-pounds haggard Jared Leto out of acting hiatus, a transsexual Woodruff meets who seems to handle Woodruff’s abrasive ways – so the two become business partners.

The Ron/Rayon friendship comes to be the soul of this film, and thankfully so as most other aspects of the film remain disappointingly one-dimensional – from Jennifer Garner stuck twiddling her thumbs with nothing to do as the empathetic doctor to the big-bad-horrible-terrible drug agency caricatures coming to trample all that is hopeful and good. Its sad that such a movie would get stuck in such good-versus-bad monochromatic territory, an easy-out tact of writing that crushes the possibility of making a film that sympathetic on every level. Again though, Dallas Buyers Club survives in McConaughey’s and Leto’s brilliant performances – portrayals of real people in all of their upstanding glory and all of their miserable horror. Before the Oscar race even started, Leto seemed to have locked himself into to the hearts and voting ballots of the right people – if there is one race that is a sure thing this year, it is all for Leto in the Supporting Actor category. McConaughey stands on not-so solid ground for Leading Actor, but he seems to come closer everyday. After showing up in HBO’s “True Detective” with what just might be the crowning acting achievement of his career so far (Golden Globes 2015!) at the precise moment that the nominations were released and AMPAS members started to chew over who they’ll vote for, McConaughey might as well be a sure thing.

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