Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Best Actor 2013: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club.

Dallas Buyers Club is a surprisingly good story of one man's attempt to fight both HIV and the FDA through untested medicines and the creation of a membership service. The film manages to be very heartfelt without ever falling into schmaltz.

Matthew McConaughey's career resurgence, out of the black hole of bad romantic comedies, of 2012 with film like Bernie and Killer Joe was indeed only an indication of what would come as he followed it in 2013 with his performances in Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, and his leading performance here in Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey is not just choosing better projects though, but he is also proving himself more than worthy of every role he takes on as well. The role of Ron Woodroof is quite a jumble, in not only who the character is, but also what happens to the character, and most importantly how much the character really needs to do within the context of the film's structure. There are many parts to this man, and McConaughey seems ready to take each part to form a single man.

The first aspect that one would notice and expect from an actor playing an HIV patient is frankly the suffering. McConaughey in this regard is excellent. He of course has the look of the haggard AIDS patient with his especially think frame, but there is much more to McConaughey's work than his dramatic weight loss. Throughout the film Woodroof suffers various pains, particularly early on when he refuses to recognize his problem. McConaughey brings to life every point of Woodroof's condition to the screen with a great precision. The moments of physical pain are done are done completely to the point by McConaughey never using them to be an overly dramatic scene, but rather he bluntly shows where Woodroof is in regards to his health from one moment to the next.

McConaughey's portrayal of Woodroof's physical state is only one aspect though of his performance as this is a story about the man Woodroof is more than what is ailing his body. At the beginning of his film Woodroof is philandering, drinking, smoking, gambling, cheating, and cocaine snorting fellow. McConaughey is very effective in his portrayal of these early scenes showing this as being pretty much the every day routine for old Ron. McConaughey conveys the casual attitude  the man has to his life incredibly well in his kind of pleasure seeking daze. This changes though quite rapidly when Ron comes to learn that he is HIV positive. Ron is quite in disbelief especially since he thinks that only homosexuals contract the disease.

McConaughey is amazing in the scene in which Woodroof is given his diagnosis. This would be an easy scene to overplay in so many fashions especially when Woodroof begins to espouse his hatred toward homosexuals. In regard to that aspect of Ron McConaughey is very realistic by showing just as the most casual of responses as this view just has always been Ron's view towards gay people. McConaughey hits every note needed for the scene from Ron's strong disbelief over the idea of him even being capable of having HIV along with subtle fear in his reaction, but as well a defiance to even recognize it. McConaughey realizes the complicated emotions of the moment in Ron vividly and shows all that Ron is going through in the moment.

The diagnosis at first only leads Ron down a path of destruction as he refuses to recognize the diagnosis as truth. McConaughey is marvelous because there is never a moment he is not furthering the path of Ron. Any moment, especially these early scenes, could just be Ron being stupid and not listening, but that's not what McConaughey does with these scenes. McConaughey surely does show the denial in Ron, but that is not all there is. McConaughey shows, even before his wake up call in a hospital bed, that Ron is no longer in his pleasure seeking daze. McConaughey suggests that unease in the man as he slowly sees the reality about himself. McConaughey has an especially powerful scene where Ron prays at a strip bar. The set up never seems forced because how truthful McConaughey is in his portrayal of Ron's trying to reach for something to live.

Ron manages to find himself a way through a bit of luck that seems to be a way for him to live, and thrive by selling untested medicines to other HIV patients. The strongest quality within Ron is his individualistic streak that propels him to come up with his scheme for survival. McConaughey creates this in Ron to allow it to be absolutely palatable. There is such a strong passion that McConaughey brings to Ron and we see how a man could do what Ron does. When Ron basically says to his doctors that he refuses to die in thirty days even though it seems like there is no other option, McConaughey makes it more of an inevitability that he will not die in his allotted time. McConaughey brings such a convincing strength in the role showing that nothing will kill this man in thirty days.

When Ron opens the Dallas Buyers Club he has not necessarily become a good person, as he is definitely making plenty of money from it, but he is a changed man from before. McConaughey is so good because there is nothing unnatural about Ron's transition. He earns every moment including Ron losing his animosity toward homosexuals once he starts an alliance with the cross dressing Rayon (Jared Leto). McConaughey does not oversell this by having Ron instantly accepting. He nicely moves through from begrudgingly accepting them, with the obvious monetary boon, to slowly becoming openly so. McConaughey never jumps once with this, and by doing so he makes the change in Ron far more moving and remarkable because it comes off as so natural.

The natural quality of this change is also true as Ron slowly becomes more selfless in his use of the club. McConaughey again only feels genuine as he portrays Ron becoming more invested in his plan that he made originally mostly to make money and save his own skin. I love that there is not a single scene where he just realizes he needs to do good now, or even sees that he has been selfish in some. No there is none of that rather McConaughey makes the change happen with great poignancy by having the passion in Ron only grow more and more as the pressures and forces against him only seem to becomes stronger. McConaughey allows this story to be easily invested with because he brings such conviction in portraying of one man's will to live.

Now one thing I have not mentioned yet is how great this performance is in just the most traditional sort of way. What I mean by that is how magnetic McConaughey here as he energizes every single scene he is in, and never fails to put every ounce of himself into the part. McConaughey carries the film with such ease and grace, and he utilizes his charm perfectly. McConaughey is rather cunning in his choice to hold back on his abundance of natural charm at the beginning of the film and effectively releases it really when Ron starts to become a far more self-realized individual. McConaughey seems like he was not content with this film just being a character piece as every scene he sells to its fullest, and making the emotional impact of them fierce though with the appropriate nuance.

This is a captivating piece of acting by McConaughey as he realizes a full portrait of the complex man of Ron Woodroof. The part could have easily been turned into bad Oscar bait and the film also could have easily gone the wrong direction if that happened. McConaughey does not let that happen though, as he brings the whole story to the forefront never letting one detail lie inert in his depiction. McConaughey technically gives a risky performance by going in every direction with Woodroof, but seems to achieve perfection as all of it adds up to one man. All I really can say is I love this performance and I love that Matthew McConaughey has decided to let everyone know just how talented he is. This is Matthew McConaughey greatest performance yet, and it is wonderful that McConaughey has made that really mean something.

34 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

Wow. He might win. I'm sticking with Ejiofor, though.

Psifonian said...

The best performance of the year, any category. Herculean work.

Matt Mustin said...

I would just like to mention Fassbender's performance in 12 Years for a second, because one thing I found remarkable is that he doesn't overdo his character's drunkenness for a SECOND. Sorry, just thought I'd mention that because I just saw it and I haven't seen McConaghuey.

Matt Mustin said...

Also, is McConaghuey Lead or Supporting in Mud? By the way you phrased it, it sounds like he's supporting.

joe burns said...

Wow, great review! I" m sure he"ll win!

dinasztie said...

He's really amazing. In another year, I'd gladly support his win. But I'll be fine if he wins he just has to change his annoying acceptance speeches and reactions.

JamDenTel said...

Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of the film, and I thought McConaughey was better in Mud and WoWS. (I hope for your alternate Best Actors for this year you do Tye Sheridan from Mud. He was incredible.)

Michael McCarthy said...

I don't wanna jinx it but this sure does look like a winning review.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: Yes he's supporting in Mud.

luke higham said...

Great review as Usual, Louis

Who're you reviewing next

Anonymous said...

One of the strongest years in recent memory, Louis?

Matt Mustin said...

You know what, I'm changing my prediction, I think McConaghuey will win.

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: Same here

1. Matthew Mcconaghuey
2. Leonardo Dicaprio
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor
4. Bruce Dern
5. Christian Bale

Dicaprio & Ejiofor to get 5 Jacks.

Matt Mustin said...

I'm still keeping Ejiofor in second place. But I think Leo will be right on his heels with a 5 as well.

luke higham said...

Matt: who's your Supporting Actor Pick.

Matt Mustin said...

Luke: At the moment, Fassbender in a landslide.

mcofra7 said...

1. Matthew McConaughey
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor
3. Leonardo DiCaprio
4. Christian Bale
5. Bruce Dern

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: Ejiofor will be next.

luke higham said...

Louis: Good

luke higham said...

Louis: what is your rating & thoughts on Malcolm Mcdowell in Gangster No 1.

mrripley said...

v good but my heart is with chiwetel.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I'd give him a 4.5. I would have reviewed him for 2000 supporting but I was still arguing with myself whether he was lead or supporting. I figure now he's a bit like Irrfan Khan in Life of PI in that he tells his own story, but he's played by someone else for most of the story, although McDowell has a little more time to himself. I thought he was great though easily carrying the menace, and "cool" of the gangster, but also a deep seeded sadness in his character.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Anyone else watch True Detective yet? Because seeing McConaughey there so shortly after this role gave me whiplash.

RatedRStar said...

Ill tell you something, the best time to watch The Wolf Of Wall Street, is when your drunk lol =D haha.

Matt Mustin said...

There's really no bad time to watch Wolf of Wall Street.

Michael Patison said...

Robert: I have not. I'm probably going to wait another month and a half and then HBOgo it all at once.

How's the series? Are McConaughey and Harrelson good?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Michael: So far, so good. Harrelson's really good, McConaughey is freaking fantastic.

Matt Mustin said...

I've heard people saying that they might as well just give McConaughey the Emmy right now.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

They sort of should. It's so... different than what you're used to seeing him.

RatedRStar said...

Oh I cant wait to see Matthew in Detective, it looks like a great drama and I love murder mysterys, as for Wolf of Wall Street, its great in general, but when drunk, it goes from a 5 star film, to a 10 star film lol =D.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm saving all of my WoWS quotes for DiCaprio's review. Don't tempt me Frodo!

RatedRStar said...

The Wolf Of Wall Street is so, balls to the wall fun lol.

dinasztie said...

McConaughey is amazing in True Detective, probably even better than here. He should be an easy Emmy winner for that one.

dshultz said...

I'd have to say that my favorite part of this performance was seeing how entirely accepting of the gay community Ron had become when he forced his former friend to shake Rayon's hand in the supermarket. It wasn't a big fuss, it wasn't a "pet the dog" moment, it was just something that I feel Ron would've done in any circumstance. I remember feeling incredibly proud (maybe not the best descriptor?) of him at that moment. McConaughey earned every jumbled emotion I felt throughout that entire film, and since it's been done in Oscar and Best Actor Louis Morgan history, I'd split it between him and Ejiofor.