I’ve heard a few claim that actors, such as Christian Bale for “The Fighter”, only won an Oscar or other accolades simply due to the sheer amount of weight they either lost or gained for the corresponding role. That their achievement was merely bestowed upon them for such radical weight shifts and was not the result of towering talent and investment. Of course, this topic has come up more often recently due to award season buzz surrounding the aforementioned Christian Bale, who once again changed his weight for the film “American Hustle” and skyrocketing star Matthew McConaughey, who lost a dangerous amount of weight for his film “Dallas Buyers Club.” Is it a coincidence that these two actors are at the centre of most award season rumours and predictions? Or is there merit in changing oneself physically as well as mentally for a role that demands it? What do you think?
I feel that this statement, regarding the cohesiveness of recognition and weight modifications, which may or may not resonate with each of you, is completely and utterly false, no matter which way you swing it. Even if one was recognized or given an award for a role in which they endured a significant weight change, it takes an incredible amount of balance, self-restrain, and discipline to pull of such fluctuations, and the recipient, in my opinion, is very much deserving of the praise, maybe even an award. I mean, it’s not as if this type of endeavour is a walk in the park, regardless if you’re gaining or losing excessive pounds. I think it’s important for actors to throw themselves entirely into their characters, and if significant physical alterations is what needs to be done in order to achieve total and believable portrayals, so be it.
That being said, of course I think that there is more to garnering universal acclaim in the film industry than mere weight transitions. One can lose all the weight they please, but like a performance that requires no physical changes, if the facial expressions, emotion, authenticity, rawness, talent, and honesty isn’t there, the performance is moot. Keep in mind however, that rising and falling numbers on a scale do contribute significantly to a characters appearance, obviously, as well as the mental stability and impression the character’s surrounding environment has on him/her. It can enhance the viewer’s experience to an uncomfortable, realistic extent and increase the range of an actors talents. Weight fluctuation is a skill, a tool utilized by actors to accomplish their job as impressively, thoroughly as possible.
Based on the real story of Ron Woodruff, “Dallas Buyers Club” centres around Mr. Woodruff, an electrician who doubles as a hustler and who is your stereotypical redneck, racist and homophobic. When he isn’t at work however, Ron partakes in a lifestyle consisting of frequent, unprotected sex and drug use. Upon waking up in a hospital after a work-related injury, he is informed that he is HIV positive. Fearing the worst, Ron quickly finds an illegal way to obtain the most recent, potent drug to assist in his recovery and stabilization. Soon, Ron comes to terms with the fact that the drug is destroying his body and other patients systems as well. And with the assistance of a foreign doctor, companies abroad, and a few locals, Ron starts the Dallas Buyers Club. A membership-driven organization that distributes unapproved remedies that work safely and effectively to those suffering from AIDS. Of course, illegal activity cannot go unnoticed and unpunished, and it’s not long before those not benefiting from this secret operation take action.
As I mentioned previously, Matthew McConaughey, the star of “Dallas Buyers Club,” lost a threatening amount of weight for his role as Ron Woodruff. He’s already earned the golden globe for his outstanding portrayal here and has been nominated for an Oscar as well. That should speak enough to the caliber of his performance here. It’s a risky character to undertake, but he’s done a stellar job capturing and exuding the fear, vulnerability, and courage of Ron Woodruff. McConaughey’s recent rapid ascension is unprecedented. Over the past couple of years, he’s shifted from rom-com playboy to Oscar heavyweight with outstanding outings in high-profile gigs such as the television series “True Detective” alongside Woody Harrelson and the film ”The Wolf of Wall Street” directed by Martin Scorsese. You can catch McConaughey in another hotly-anticipated flick “Interstellar” directed by the illustrious Christopher Nolan set for release later this year. It’s looks prime to earn him more accolades and praise.
Now, I know I might catch some flack for this next statement, nonetheless, it’s my honest opinion and needs to be said. Jared Leto, who has already earned a Golden Globe win like his co-star, did not impress me nearly as much as the performance’s reputation leads on. It’s a good portrayal, but nothing to get overly excited about. I respect and admire the heart and bravery needed for the role and Leto fulfilled it quite well, just not as sufficient and brilliant as McConaughey. Maybe Leto’s character was so over-shadowed by McConaughey’s Woodruff that it left me cold and indifferent. Regardless, it’s definitely a notch above most, but not Oscar worthy, again, in my opinion.
“Dallas Buyers Club” is completely driven by its performances. The story is inspiring, riveting, and thought-provoking. Yet, apart from these facets, cinematically there isn’t a lot to marvel at. That being said, it does provide some of the most honest, harsh filmmaking of the year. All in all, “Dallas Buyers Club” is without question one of the best of the year and should be respected as such, despite what it obviously lacks.