It’s worth admitting both my predisposition for anything with a Texan drawl and my overwhelming admiration of the McConaughnaissance. The once rom-com lead with a habit of leaning on things has landed a string of standout performances in standout films, namely Magic Mike, Mud and Killer Joe, along with some great performances elevating a couple noble failures (Bernie, The Paperboy).
Then there’s his kinetic ten minutes at the start of The Wolf Of Wall Street, plus his role as the esoteric Rust Cohle in HBO’s True Detective, whose performance is wrapped in so many luscious layers. Dallas Buyers Club may not be my favourite moment of the McConaughnaissance but it’s another very fine addition. McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a drug taking redneck who’s enraged when he’s diagnosed with the ‘faggot disease’ HIV and discovers that he’s unable to gets hold of the trial drug AZT in the US, the only thing that can help the virus. He accrues the drug through any means necessary and accepts the help of fellow sufferer Rayon (a transgender Jared Leto) in order to sell it to other HIV+ patients. Whether his motivation is to help people or to make a quick buck is the question the film shies away from discussing, but it’s through McConaughey’s performance that it makes sense. Woodroof is introduced to us as such an uneducated, selfish, drunk bigot that it’s not entirely convincing that he would team up with a transsexual for selfless endeavours but McConaughey and Leto do manage to elevate material which is superficially formulaic. The film is intentionally dry, lacking sentimentality or a sense of historical importance which is both to its credit and its detriment as it’s played with the right sort of low key honesty but doesn’t have the script to make it more than a formulaic drama, with a couple sparkling performances.
Dallas Buyers Club is out now in the UK and US. Running time 117 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).