On Twitter: @JamesEppler
I'm not sure when it happened or how, but at some point Matthew McConaughey decided he was tired of sleepwalking with his shirt off through featherweight movies, and he started choosing roles that were challenging and interesting.
Movies like "Bernie," "Killer Joe" and "Mud" have turned into one of the most fascinating young actors working right now. His latest now playing in Lubbock theaters should earn him an Oscar nomination.
"Dallas Buyers Club" tells the true story of Ron Woodruff - a Texas bull rider in the mid-80s whose taste for drugs, booze and women catches up to him when he learns he's HIV positive and only has 30 days to live.
A good-ol'-boy homophobe, Woodruff finds himself lumped in with the gay community he's always hated. When he finds out drugs that aren't FDA approved might help him, he starts smuggling them into the US from Mexico to sell. The feds catch on pretty quick.
Jared Leto is warmly funny and heartbreaking as an AIDS-stricken drag queen who serves as Woodruff's business partner and connection to the gay community.
Jennifer Garner also reminds us what a fine actress she is, as a doctor who catches on to Woodruff's scheme.
McConaughey's performance isn't just impressive because of the physical transformation he made (he dropped nearly 40 pounds). It's a deeply emotional and complicated role. Woodruff is never entirely likeable, as he's making cash off the desperate and dying. But McConaughey makes him endearing somehow as the walls start coming down.
"Dallas Buyers Club" is funny, fascinating, and sometimes profoundly sad. Although it's narrative is never as perfect as the performance contained in it, this feels like an important movie - a must-see.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * * * 1/2