As far as expert opinions go, Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine" and Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave" will be bringing home gold on Oscar night. Following this logic, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are also predicted to have their names read when the envelope opens in March. Yet, a better question needs to be asked when it comes to Academy Award nominated performances. What would happen if there was only one acting category and the Academy was only able to award one Best Acting recipient an accolade for standing out amongst the top performers of the year? Well, this year, unlike any other, there is a sole thespian who deserves this and that person is Mr. Jared Leto.
"Dallas Buyers Club" is a true story shot in a gritty fashion with Matthew McConaughey taking the lead role of Ron Woodruff, a man diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. Through strength and illegal consumption of AZT, DBC becomes a hard character study on this man who will do what he can to survive on his own terms. Forming the DBC after finding out pharmaceutical medication works at a greater rate of improving your system, he begins to smuggle these drugs into Texas and sell them by charging a membership fee to those who have AIDS who will receive whatever they need for free.
McConaughey's role was no small task. He lost a reportedly 50 pounds to play the role and enjoyed the new kind of freedom that came along with independent filmmaking. It's no secret if you've been following the news that his performance is transcendent. Heartbreaking and funny, he brings humanity to a man you often time have contempt for. He's crazy as ever, off the wall at times, but always grounded in reality. A particularly moving exchange between Jennifer Garner's character and Ron is certainly a moment unlike any other McConaughey has played in his career.
So, by all means, give all the praise you feel worthy to this actor who is taking on more dramatic roles that lift him as an actor. Maybe his was the best performance of the year in a leading capacity, I tend to disagree, but I won't argue slightly it's the best performance of his career.
However, after a five year acting break, it's Mr. Jared Leto who returns to the acting scene to make you laugh, sob and give a performance worthy of more than a simple Oscar. It's a brave creation that inspires hope in ways supporting roles rarely do. Portraying Rayon, a transgender woman, it's a true testament to the actor's approach that your face turns into a smile and your heart breaks a little more each time he appears on screen. It is truly, again, the best performance by an actor this year. I dare you to watch the scene where Rayon confronts her father and not have a visceral reaction to Rayon's response to her father's utterance of "God help me."
Of the nine films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, I am not ashamed to say that DBC deserves the win. Putting aside the performances, it is beautifully directed with very few cuts and a perfectly crafted screenplay. The film is also profane and vulgar without feeling out of place. But most of all, it's a story of a man who changed lives told as simply that, not preaching about AIDS, not even going into the history of AIDS, just a story well told.
When you see this movie, and that should be a when NOT an if, look deeper. Don't watch it for the performances, don't watch it for the subject matter, just relax and let the story come to you because, as all good films do, the story will move you.
So, as an avid movie-goer who enjoys the independent scene more than the mainstream scene, I am only one of the many who can thank Mr. Leto for coming out of hiding and reminding us not just about good acting but good people.