Published Thursday, 06 February 2014
But he finally comes of age with a sensational performance in his new film Dallas Buyers Club. He is aided and abetted by rock star turned actor Jared Leto with an equally startling performance.
Both actors underwent dramatic weight loss for their meaty parts but in doing so they have gained huge critical acclaim including the Golden Globes for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor and are sure-fire favourites for the Oscars next month.
Deep in the heart of his native Texas, McConaughey plays Ron Woodruff, a real-life rodeo rider and electrician with a reckless party lifestyle. But in 1985, his devil may care attitude collapses when he is diagnosed as H.I.V.-positive, prescribed with a highly toxic drug and given a month to live. "Let me give y'all a little news flash," he declares to the doctors. "There ain't nothin' out there can kill Ron Woodroof in 30 days."
After this initial bombshell, Woodroof enters into the world of underground pharmaceuticals. First, by seeking refuge in the Mexican black-market and then by becoming a kingpin of unapproved alternative treatments. These covert remedies however productive to his own health present a serious challenge to the US medical establishment including his concerned physician, Dr. Eve Saks (played by Jennifer Garner).
Macho Ron then finds an unlikely partner in fellow AIDS patient Rayon (played by Jared Leto), a foxy transsexual drug-addict who shares his entrepreneurial spirit. The unlikely twosome establish a "buyers club" in downtown Dallas, where H.I.V.-positive people pay monthly dues for access to the newly acquired supplies; thus avoiding government sanctions against selling non-approved medicines.
This is a remarkable true story, where an imperfect man fights for survival during an uncertain time.
He simply refuses to accept his death sentence and fearlessly takes a stand against the politically corrupt who prefer to profit from the sick instead of aiding them in their recovery. Director Jean-Marc Vallee keeps it real, portraying Woodruff as a deeply complex man, certainly not your conventional hero but a foul-mouthed homophobic hedonist with a lust for life.
McConaughey is physically wafer thin, but his performance is razor sharp with great heart. He roars through every scene as he fights for dignity, equality and acceptance for a growing community of friends and clients. Jared Leto taking inspiration from his Rayon's obsession with Marc Bolan, sparkles and shines before tragically fading away, leaving a character that lingers long in the memory.
"This film was never about dying," Matthew McConaughey said last month when he received his Golden Globe. "It was always about living". The fact that the real Ron Woodruff lived for years and not days is a lasting testament to his lone star resilience.
The Dallas Buyers Club (Cert 15) is now on general release.
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