Sunday, November 29, 2015

Matthew McConaughey is no lightweight

The "Dallas Buyers Club" star lost 40-plus pounds to play real-life '80s AIDS victim Ron Woodroof. But he gained a ton of insight in the process. TIFF Day 5.

Matthew McConaughey is no lightweight

McConaughey as Woodroof, in "Dallas Buyers Club."
McConaughey as Woodroof, in "Dallas Buyers Club."

In a midday Monday interview following the press conference for Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey sat down to discuss the fearless physical transformation he underwent to play real-life Texas AIDS victim Ron Woodroof. A high school dropout, a self-employed electrician, a wildman rodeo hustler who consumed drugs and alcohol as if there was no tomorrow -- and then found out there literally was not going to be a tomorrow, after he was diagnosed HIV-positive -- Woodruff defied the medical establishment and the FDA and went on to educate himself about alternative treatments for AIDS. Told he had 30 days to live, he survived for more than six years, setting up a clinic and helping hundreds of fellow HIV and AIDS patients in the process. He was a heterosexual and a homophobe, a roustabout, a shrewd businessman, and McConaughey -- who shed more than 40 lbs to play him -- came to love the man. It's a scary performance -- scarily good. Dallas Buyers Club opens Nov. 1.

Also sat down with Steven Soderbergh and Godfrey Reggio, about Reggio's transcendent piece of cinematic outsider art, Visitors. Unlike anything else in the festival (or in the film world), Reggio's Visitors is a silent, black-and-white opus full of slo-mo portraits, of gliding shots of Louisiana bayous and abandoned amusement parks, and of a beatific gorilla, Triska, a resident of the Bronx Zoo. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra dove into the Philip Glass score at the Elgin Theater Monday night, and on Tuesday morning Reggio talked about his ideas of stillness, of slowing down the rush of the world to consider the human beings who inhabit it. (I was too busy checking my Twitter feed to pay any attention.... a joke, a joke!) Soderbergh, who is "presenting" Visitors, talked about first seeing a cut of Visitors a few months back, without knowing anything about it, and how deeply it moved him and affected his thinking about film, the filmgoing experience, and perception. Visitors opens in the spring of 2014, from Cinedigm.

Saw The Armstrong Lie, Alex Gibney's fascinating but depressing doc about Lance Armstrong, the scandal-smeared cycling superstar and cancer survivor. Gibney tagged along like a happy pup with Armstrong on his 2009 Tour de France comeback, and then felt  burned and betrayed after the truth about Armstrong's doping regimens -- doping that he had all along aggressively denied -- began to emerge. The Oscar-winning documentarian caught up with the tainted sports hero again earlier this year, after his  Oprah Winfrey interview, in which he finally admitted to the systematic use of performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong goes further, and explains himself less evasively, to Gibney. "Moral relativism" is a term thrown around in the film. Liar liar, pants on fire.

Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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