Jared Leto won his Oscar from his first Oscar nomination for portraying Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.
For much of the film Rayon back up Ron and acts as his sidekick of sorts as they run a business of selling unapproved drugs to HIV patients, while they use the money to survive and research new way to fight off the virus. Leto's is very good in not overplaying the obvious flamboyance of his character. Leto makes Rayon a peculiar sort most definitely, but everything he does in his creation of Rayon feels wholly natural. Leto handles his accent especially well in playing both Rayon attempt to sound like a woman while actually having a slight Texan accent as well. Leto finds his tone by definitely having the flamboyance to Rayon, but never letting it overwhelm the character.
Leto is very good in being the supportive presence in the film to McConaughey's more confrontational portrayal of Woodruff. Leto and McConaughey have a terrific chemistry in the film in creating this friendship between two extremely different people. Leto is very good in being the warmer of the two who always seems to be trying to be cheerful in at least some sort of way, while as well being the far more fearful of the two. Leto balances the two qualities beautifully in his depiction of Rayon that plays off McConaughey's performance very effectively. Importantly as well though Leto does have just the right bit of snark in showing that, even though they have found a common cause, there definitely is a disconnect between Ron and Rayon.
Leto here also did remind me of William Hurt's greatest, and Oscar winning, performance in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Both are very troubled souls who seem to find solace in their choice of clothing, although Hurt's Molina only occasionally wore them where Leto's Rayon wears feminine clothing in every scene but one. Rayon has more problems than just his virus as he consistently takes drugs even if that makes less and less likely that he will live for very long. Leto is very moving in portraying Rayon as an individual who basically wants to live, seen in his attempts to be cheery, yet knows that he is not going to, shown in his fear that only grows stronger as his health begins to decline more and more.
Jared Leto's best scene actually though is when he drops any of his Rayon mannerisms, as well as the dresses when Rayon goes to see his father in an attempt to try to help keep the Dallas Buyers Club going. Leto's performance is excellent in this scene as he shows the unease of Rayon out of his usual element. There is more than that though as Leto suggests Rayon's uncomfortable and troubled life with his father before he ever came in contact with Woodruff. Leto is terrific in this scene as there is nothing really cheery about Rayon here and he allows for the fear to more fully overwhelm him, and Leto expresses not only how much that Rayon does not want to die, but how much he wants to live as well.
If I have a complaint, and it's not really so much about Leto, is that the impact of his performance is somewhat diminished by Ron Woodroof's story. This is particularly true in Leto's last scenes that are very abrupt, since they are tailored made more in regards to creating conflict in Woodroof's story rather than giving Rayon a proper sendoff as a character. Unlike Fassbender and Abdi who I felt stood toe to toe with the lead performances they supported in every scene they, I did feel that Leto at times was overshadowed slightly by Matthew McConaughey's leading work. I do not want to sound dismissive toward Leto's performance though in anyway as his portrayal of Rayon is a remarkable piece of acting which finds the humanity within his character's flamboyant exterior.