Mud, Magic Mike, True Detective, Wolf of Wall Street and the upcoming Interstellar. A thrilling career resurgence. With his usual lithe frame looking weak and gaunt it was wince-inducing to watch McConaughey at times. But his lack of muscle mass belies a powerful performance, matched by a script that displays several strong ideas without hitting you over the head with them.
Set over the course of several years the film is punctuated by a piercing, almost headache inducing sound, which soon becomes a harbinger of bad tidings as it signifies a worsening of Woodruff’s condition. With the man making such a wild change in his view of the world I found myself dreading these moments, as I wanted him to have the chance to keep going and remain a force to be reckoned with. That the sound make me feel physically uncomfortable was initially off-putting but ultimately I felt it was a clever choice as it puts you in the characters shoes.
McConaughey is fantastically belligerent, charming, and strong, and could have easily overpowered anyone in his vicinity. But his larger than life personality is matched by Jared Leto’s Rayon, a drug addict and HIV-positive transgender woman whose sassy and sweet nature burrows under Woodroof’s skin. A shadow of his usual healthy self, Leto never descends into caricature and imbues Rayon with the strength someone in Rayon’s position would no doubt need to survive in a strongly homophobic 1980’s Texas. Jennifer Garner doesn’t match the level of intensity of the two other leads, but her character goes through her own changes whilst providing a different point of view.
I was surprised to find out that the film was shot over only 25 days in 2012 for a modest (by Hollywood standards) budget of $5 million. The script itself had been in development since the 1990’s and has had various big names attached to it. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay McConaughey is that I couldn’t imagine anyone in the role.
Dallas Buyers Club may not cover the most palatable of subjects, but it’s respect for both the story and characters is apparent in every scene. The ‘McConaissance’ is clearly still on an upward trajectory. To concentrate solely on him however does no justice to the thoughtful script, direction and acting talent shown throughout.