“The culminating performance of Hollywood’s prized talent!”
It’s amazing to think just how much of an upturn Matthew McConaughey has had in recent years. His last half a dozen roles which have included Killer Joe and Mud have fuelled the renaissance, a “McConnaissance” rather, to the point we have what feels the culminating performance of Hollywood’s prized talent right now. He leads an almost rebellious, half-uplifting half-tragic story of a real life case of moral dilemmas and defying the powers that be in the pursuit of a wider and more important cause.
Set in mid-80’s Texas, blue-collar worker Ron Woodroof (played by McConaughey), finds he has contracted HIV and told by doctors he has 30 days left to his name. Desperate to keep living, he resorts to untested medical drugs that effectively prolong his symptoms, so much so he decides to go into black market business with fellow patient Rayon (played by Jared Leto) to sell and make a profit. But as local hospitals and federal agencies discover his dealings, with side effects also playing havoc, he leads the fight to make his experiences public.
It’s in many ways a heroic story of someone taking such a huge gamble with their own life, battling everything around that’s defying him and ultimately setting a precedent for future practice. Not for a clear political stance or fame, but happening upon this discovery that experimental drugs though dangerous as they are have given our hero a new cause for living, despite being given a short survival expectancy.
But the film doesn’t showcase how great this all is, it also questions you into a moral corner of whether these untried and unknown substances are practical in the long run. Mainly because it looks at both sides of the coin, on one hand the forceful hand of the law questioning the inadequacy of the drug ring, on the other hand the flock of patients and custom who are clearly medically benefiting from this operation. What makes it more engaging is our main character is at the lowest level of his personal life, the drink, drugs and prostitutes is the only way of life he has, and had it been a more intellectual or diplomatic person at the centre of the story, you perhaps wouldn’t believe they would be hasty in risking themselves in illegal drug smuggling.
But Matthew McConaughey is fantastic as our protagonist Ron. Contorted and battered, proud and stubborn, bathed in the deep working class Texan mentality, he’s often at times a character you don’t particularly endear to. Old fashioned views towards both AIDS, trans gender communities and women, he slowly sees the light and gathers up a respect and admiration towards all walks of life as the narrative play out. McConaughey goes from being a distant personality into this quietly triumphant leader of a fight against the system, which he perfects brilliantly.
You also have Jared Leto, Ron’s transgender business partner who fully immerses himself into his performance with a slightly toned flamboyance. It’s unashamed, bold and played just right in the context of the story. Jennifer Garner also plays Ron’s doctor Eve at the right tone as a woman wanting to help her patient but on the other hand supportive of his nonstop pursuit to help those around him too.
It feels McConaughey’s most weighted and important performance of an already brilliantly recent list. He carries the film through its many themes and does so with a respect and admiration for his character. Long may this renaissance continue.