Sometimes actors get on these runs. Stretches where it seems not only that they are everywhere, but everywhere they are is good. Ryan Gosling had one of those not long ago, when he was in “Blue Valentine,” “Ides of March,” “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Drive.” Three of those were in the same year, and it still galls me that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for something.
But right now, Matthew McConaughey is on one of those runs. His output since 2012 has included “Magic Mike,” a movie he pretty much took over; the acclaimed “Mud”; the marvelous HBO series “True Detective”; and two Oscar-nominated movies, “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” He is nominated for the best-actor Oscar for the latter film and has to be considered the favorite right now, since he has been nabbing other prizes for the performance, including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award. At the same time, co-star Jared Leto is on track to a best supporting actor Oscar, having also won earlier honors for his work in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Those two actors alone should be enough reason to check out “Buyers” when it arrives Tuesday (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray / DVD / digital combo). They are both terrific. But they are also giving their best in service of an excellent movie, whose six nominations also include ones for best picture and original screenplay. And that should encourage you even more to see it.
“Dallas Buyers Club” stars McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a rambunctious and reckless electrician and occasional rodeo rider who learns in 1985 that he has HIV. Determined to fight the virus and the likely onset of AIDS, he begins questioning what is passing for treatment and demanding other approaches.
Since the FDA is refusing to authorize some of the alternatives, Woodroof goes to Mexico and smuggles drugs into the U.S. He also learns of other people seeking medical assistance — like the transsexual Rayon (Leto). And, with Rayon, he sets up a “buyers club” which skirts laws against selling unapproved drugs by selling memberships in the club, then giving the drugs to members.
The movie is many things at once: an examination of discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS, an attack on government obstinacy, a couple of gripping character portraits (both Ron and Rayon are complicated people) and a movie about change and redemption, specifically as Ron’s attitudes about people in the LGBT community change. In some respects, “Dallas Buyers Club” is a companion to “Schindler’s List” in its presentation of a man who finds a way to help some people even as a larger horror is going on around him.
And yes, McConaughey is Oscar-worthy. He lost close to 40 pounds to play the ailing Ron, but there’s a performance to go with the physical change. He is never over the top, even when another actor might have seen a chance for scenery-chewing. Leto, meanwhile, has been known mainly for a career mixing music (as part of 30 Seconds To Mars) with acting (perhaps most famously on TV’s “My So-Called Life”); here he shows how very skilled his acting is.
Extras include deleted scenes and “A Look Inside ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’”
Down video road: “Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 18; this is the season with the stunning “The Rains of Castamere” episode. “Nikita: The Fourth and Final Season” will be on DVD and Blu-ray on April 22. That same day will see the release of “The King Family: Classic Television Specials Collection Volume 1,” showcasing the famous musical troupe.