Ah the Matthew McConaughey resurgence continues. Seriously. That's the biggest thing to take out of this movie, because it is Oscar bait through and through. Now that doesn't mean this is not a good movie, rather it just means that its existence is here simply for Truth Entertainment and Voltage Pictures to get some buzz with the various guilds that vote for the Oscars. And coincidentally make more movies! WOAH. It's like it's a business or something! All jokes aside, this is a good movie, but that's all it is. Good. Well maybe great. Masterfully acted, well told, interesting, and relatively moving, this movie is a strong and worth-while bit of cinema.
So the highlight of the movie is without a doubt the acting. Matthew McConaughey and how he's continuing to turn his career around is the highlight of this highlight reel, as he fully immerses himself into the role of Ron Woodroof, creating a convincing story arc from start to finish. While it is not as good a performance for him as Mud was earlier in 2013, that's not saying much because his acting in Mud just might be my single favorite acting performance of 2013. Yep. I said it. Anyway, McConaughey isn't the only worthwhile performance in this movie. The other is in the hands of none other than Jared Leto. A man who I have actually had the (unfortunate) pleasure of meeting in December of 2013. While he is one of the biggest jerks in existence, (sorry 30 Seconds to Mars fans, but he is) he goes all out portraying the transvestite Rayon. Actually his initial reveal was my favorite part of the movie. "Is that Jared Leto? Holy shit it's Jared Leto." was my reaction when I first saw him. As I said, he goes all out, complete with borderline-sexy dresses and makeup to portray Rayon. He was barely recognizable. And his acting was marvelous too! At one point he goes and sees his dad and dresses like a man and you can see the anguish on his face as he puts on a mirage of him being normal for his father. It was a moving scene (probably the best of the film) and almost worth the price of admission alone. Wow. That is a lot of praise for Leto. However where there is good acting, there is also bad acting. In the form of Jennifer Garner. She really needs to get out of the business, because she cannot act. Her role isn't written very well in the first place, and more-or-less serves at the pleasure of McConaughey, but she does a TERRIBLE job of expressing the emotions her character needs to express. When your best performance is a subpar job in Juno, you know you need to quit.
Anyway, the story. The story is pretty good, though not without its faults. For starters, this is a very safe movie. What I mean is that Hollywood managed to find the one person in the AIDs epidemic that helped gays through it while simultaneously being a straight homophobe. So this is a movie that is about the hardship of the gays, but at the same time insults them throughout by reminding us that many people absolutely hate them. In short, Milk was a better movie about the gay hardship during the 70s (and 80s) in part because it actually told it's story from the viewpoint of someone who is actually gay and makes him the hero. Now this doesn't mean that this movie is bad. McConaughey goes through a very well done and convincing story arc, and Leto has his moments. Garner is written poorly but her lack of acting didn't help the situation either. There are various stages that McConaughey goes through as he is forced to deal with the people that he hates initially, and I bought the change he experiences. It's a hard chip to sell, but they got it! And the moments Leto has, like with his father, were very moving and rather heartbreaking as well. His character really is beautifully written, despite being the blunt of many of McConaughey's insults.
In conclusion, if you want to see the performance that will win best supporting actor this year or want to see why Hollywood is getting excited about Matthew McConaughey, watch this movie. However, if you want a gay hardship movie, go watch Milk. Which is one of my favorites, I might add. Still a good story here, but Milk's is great. Oh almost forgot! At 117 minutes, this movie feels a little long. It could've used 15 minutes getting shaved off somewhere. Oh! I know! Let's remove all of Jennifer Garner's parts! That'll make it better. Man I really put some hating on Garner in this review I wonder if anyone's going to come out and support her.....but geez even her IMDB picture is bad! *I'm going to stare dramatically into the camera for some reason. No smile up in here! Because having fun and enjoying ourselves is for losers!* That's what her picture is saying. And that's how I'm going to end this review. Testicles.
The Critique: some of the best acting performances of the year combined with just a good story equals a movie that almost gets to great but not quite. Still a good watch though.
The Recommendation: watch it for the acting. However if you really don't care about acting your time is better spent elsewhere.
The Verdict: 7.5/10 Somewhere between good and great
Oscar Talk: Definitely the favorite for best supporting actor, and I'm going to leave it at that. Especially seeing as the nominations will be out in like 12 hours.