A Transformative Performance: Dallas Buyers Club

Say what you will about Matthew McConaughey, but he has undoubtedly broken out of the seemingly doomed shell that he has created for himself during the turn of the century, trapped within the expectations of the system through weightless romantic leads that neither challenges nor rewards him. Beginning with The Lincoln Lawyer in 2011, McConaughey have turned his career around, a shining beacon of hope that reveal the possibility of a worthy career, climbing out of the pitfall successfully through a applaud-worthy string of features that raised him above his peers in a matter of only five years; potentially the defining actor of the decade.


Dallas Buyers Club was the catalyst for his new found fame and respect, a feature that demonstrated his commitment and capabilities as an actor, profiting from his sacrifice and effort during the awards circle; taking home the prestigious Best Actor award along with his co-star Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor. From what I have seen from the actor, this is without a doubt his strongest film yet, taking on a role that is both demanding in its complexity, with every element of the production acting as a support for this commanding performance, and with that intense amount of pressure, he was fortunately able to carry beyond the demands of his position, thus rewarding many in the process.

The premise itself is fascinating enough for anybody to enter into the film with confidence, exploring the difficulties that came with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, tackling the event from a personal level, led by Ron Woodrood (McConaughey) as a victim and survivor. Given the calamity of the disease, the film could have observed the issue from a bird’s eye view, distancing from the individual figures and take on the issue through statistics and historical facts; an approach that a safe filmmaker would take in order to capture more information and hoping to appeal to a larger audience. Although, in doing so, it would have taken away the film’s strength which displays the morally damaging stigma that carried with the disease, and the physical deterioration that an individual would suffer when stricken; which are critical elements in determining an actor’s performance, the stimuli that would provide them the challenge they require to dissolve themselves within the roles.


Ron Woodrood and his eventual business partner, Rayon (Jared Leto), allow themselves to become symbols of hope, especially to those who felt helpless by their diagnosis; not only were they a victim to a physical disease, but also of political and social injustice through the suspicious processes of the FDA, approving a drug that causes fatal adverse effects when administered with their recommended dosage. This drug, AZT, and those who persist in its maintaining its trial on its subjects have taken on the role of antagonists through the perspective of our protagonist. Woodrood and Rayon’s experience with the treatment becomes the stimulating agent for our sense of distrust towards the FDA; but director Jean-Marc Vallée and his writers refuses to expose the corruption that may run beneath its presence, it provides a sense of ambiguity and honesty to its depiction, highlighting the fact that possibly its ‘antagonistic’ members are simply following procedure.

Woodrood and Rayon are heroes for their actions, the smuggling of experimental drugs from international researchers, placing hope in the tortured victims of Dallas, Texas. They are shining figures from the position they stand, but intelligently, they remain pure in their representation due to the inherent flaws they already carry since their introduction; they don’t easily earn their redemption, and allows changes to be implanted in appropriate and precise doses, thus earning themselves by the time they reach their conclusions, remaining with us beyond the film’s condensed tale.

If there was drawback to be found, it would be in the individual moments that intends to bait on its audience too evidently of the performances of its actors, a self-awareness that hopes to push them in the awards circle; Oscar bait is the term, but thankfully the film doesn’t suffer from it as painfully like others, thus securing its place when the time finally came for prestigious honours to be bestowed. The film kept its sights on the two male performers that Jennifer Garner’s role as the conflicted Eve becomes shifted far too widely, solidifying her presence only through moments of plot progression rather than earned emotion and complex characterisation; although the increase of her screen time could however affect the intensity that was provided in the other two performances.


Marvellous and captivating the film certainly is, with Matthew McConaughey at the pinnacle of his talent, providing a performance that is defining of his recent transformation; which I am sure could be surpassed in an upcoming role that would demand more of him, but even if that isn’t the case, he has left an incredible mark on cinematic history that would no doubt act as an inspiration for the descendants that would later enter into the platform.


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