Oscar Beat TIFF 2013: Matthew McConaughey Impresses in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, But Jared Leto Surprises with Stellar Supporting Turn

     September 7, 2013

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We’re only a few days into the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival but it’s already shaping up to be a great year performance-wise.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is phenomenal in 12 Years a Slave and will likely be a serious contender in the Best Actor Oscar race, but the long-in-development AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club had its world premiere earlier today and not only did Matthew McConaughey deliver in the lead role, but Jared Leto surprised with a truly stellar performance.

Hit the jump for my rundown of the Oscar prospects for Dallas Buyers Club in this special TIFF edition of Oscar Beat.

dallas-buyers-club-matthew-mcconaugheyBased on a true story, the film centers on Ron Woodruff (McConaughey), a Texas electrician who, after being diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, began to smuggle alternative and illegal treatments into the US and into the hands of other patients.  Dallas Buyers Club has been a passion project for McConaughey for years, and he dropped a considerable amount of weight to finally bring Woodroof’s story to the screen.  The film itself is a fascinating look at the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s that chronicles the era from a different point of view.

By taking place in Texas and telling the story of Woodroof—a heterosexual “man’s man” by all accounts—Dallas Buyers Club gives us a look into the epidemic from the perspective of someone who feels angered, ashamed, and embarrassed to be roped in with the homosexual community.  It’s an interesting way to examine the AIDS crisis, and director Jean-Marc Vallee smartly avoids any easy or clichéd “let’s hug it out” moments with the mostly homosexual patients that Woodroof ends up supplying; his road to acceptance is a long one.

McConaughey has been having one hell of a comeback over the past two years, and Dallas Buyers Club marks a culmination point for the actor.  He’s simply excellent in the film, and it looks like he should land a much-deserved Best Actor Oscar nomination.  Not only is the nomination deserved, but McConaughey has been extremely well-liked by just about everyone recently, and the positive reception to his work in Magic Mike and Mud can only help his chances to land a nod for Dallas Buyers Club.  Though he plays the title character in Mud, McConaughey is being submitted for Supporting Actor for that film.  It’s undeniably strong work, but double nominations are extremely rare and Dallas Buyers Club will most likely* be the film for which he is recognized.

dallas-buyers-club-jared-leto-matthew-mcconaugheyThe pleasant surprise of DBC, though, is Jared Leto, who plays a transvestite named Rayon who works with Woodroof to supply the AIDS drugs and eventually becomes his business partner and friend.  It’s a spectacular performance, and Leto completely disappears into the role without overreaching.  Rayon is an incredibly important character in relation to Woodroof, and Leto’s performance is essential to making the film work as a whole.  Should Oscar voters take a liking to the picture, Leto could very well land himself in the Best Supporting Actor race.

Beyond the acting categories, Dallas Buyers Club may have a tougher time breaking in.  It really is an actor’s showcase, and while the story is important and at times very moving, it may be a bit to small-scale to break into the very crowded Best Picture race.  That being said, the Academy isn’t wholly averse to true stories and this historical drama certainly has weight and relevance.  The script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack may have a shot at a Best Screenplay nod, but the screenplay race is also looking very crowded this year.

*McConaughey also has a supporting role in The Wolf of Wall Street that could possibly land him a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but that film has yet to screen for anyone so the chances of him being considered for Supporting Actor as well are unclear.

Click here to catch up on all of our TIFF coverage thus far, and peruse the rest of the TIFF Oscar Beat articles below:

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