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Tour de force performances make ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ shine

How good is “Dallas Buyers Club”?

Matthew McConaughey shed nearly 50 pounds for his role, blows the walls off of whatever boxes Hollywood has put him in and doesn’t utter a single “awright, awright, awright” while delivering one of the year’s most memorable performances. And he’s still only the second most impressive aspect of the movie.

McConaughey stars as real-life, homophobic good ole boy Ron Woodroof. Diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, he’s hostile to the idea that he’d have such a disease and nearly pummels the doctor who gives him a month to live. “There ain’t nothin’ out there,” he defiantly declares, “that can kill (expletive) Ron Woodroof in 30 days.”

He was right.

Realizing that AZT wasn’t making him any better — perhaps it was the lines of coke he was snorting as a kicker to the black-market pills — Woodroof becomes an advocate for alternative medicine.

After finding some success dressing as a priest to smuggle them in from Mexico, he begins flying around the world to bring home new treatments the federal government has banned even though they’re offering relief to him and the members of his co-op who pay him $400 a month for all the medicine they need.

As the months and years pass, the story becomes a moving testament to the power of change. But “Dallas Buyers Club’s” most jaw-dropping revelation involves the character of Rayon, the transgendered AIDS patient who shares a hospital room with Woodroof and, much to his revulsion, labels him handsome “in a Texas hick, white-trash, dumb kind of way.”

Nearly as wafer-thin as Woodroof, Rayon is a tortured, beautiful soul who eventually becomes his business partner, and a masterful job was done bringing her to life. She’s never a cartoon, never a cliche. She feels like a real, living, breathing person. (Even though Rayon is, disappointingly, only an amalgamation of people Woodroof encountered.)

Now, I’m so spoiler-averse, I try to know as little as possible about a movie before walking into a theater. So when I saw “Dallas Buyers Club” a month ago, I just assumed its producers plucked a newcomer off some New York stage for the role. But whoever it was was so extraordinary, I hit my IMDB app the second the credits began to roll.

“Holy crap! That was Jared Leto!”

He’s been so visible as the 30 Seconds to Mars frontman, I’d forgotten he ever was an actor.

But after the depths of his turn as Rayon, and the degree to which he disappears into the role in ways McConaughey never quite does, it’s not likely anyone will make that mistake again.

Party on, Garth: If you never made it to Garth Brooks’ intimate showcase at Wynn Las Vegas, you’re in luck. Well not in luck, exactly, since it was apparently something to behold. But you can experience the next best thing with “Garth Brooks, Live From Las Vegas” (9 p.m. Friday, KLAS-TV, Channel 8).

Special screenings: “Elf” kicks off a holiday film series at 2 p.m. Sunday and 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday. It’s followed by “White Christmas” on Dec. 1 and 4, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” on Dec. 8 and 11 and “It’s A Wonderful Life” on Dec. 15 and 18 as well as 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 24. See them at The Orleans, Sam’s Town, Santa Fe, South Point and Suncoast.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.

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