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Dallas Buyers Club (Nov. 1)

Matthew McConaughey lives up to the hype.

The heartthrob actor transformed himself into a walking skeleton for this film about homophobic Texas good ol’ boy Ron Woodroof, who discovers in the mid-‘80s that his days of whoring and substance abuse have left him with full-blown AIDS.

Despite a ghastly appearance, McConaughey’s charisma and energy are undaunted, and there is a fearful ambition in the pursed lips beneath his cowboy mustache as Woodroof seeks to smuggle experimental AIDS drugs into the country to save his own life. When the risky new procedures start to work, he builds a business around delivering these drugs to other AIDS sufferers seeking desperate new measures.

To help him reach people in the gay community who could benefit from his smuggled drugs, Woodroof reluctantly befriends an ailing transsexual named Rayon, and their unlikely partnership – and even more unlikely friendship – give the grim subject matter a lively, even heartwarming touch.

Jared Leto hasn’t acted in four years, and his last truly acclaimed role was in 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, but his sweet, damaged performance as Rayon – which also came with a frightening weight-drop – should put him back on Hollywood’s map. McConaughey has Best Actor potential, and Leto has an equally good shot for Best Supporting Actor.

If there’s a weak spot in Jean-Marc Vallee’s film, it’s that Dallas Buyers Club would have benefited from a tighter, more ruthless edit that might have given the narrative the same relentless energy as the performances.

NEXT PAGE: Enough Said (Sept. 18)

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