I’d hate to say that Matthew McConaughey is the only reason to see “Dallas Buyers Club,” or even the best reason, but he’s just about the whole show, and he knows it. That is why we cotton to the guy, isn’t it? That hey-now, hey-now bravado, all the more charming when it appears to be backed up by little of substance. McConaughey seduced moviegoers 20 years ago as the sleazy Wooderson in “Dazed and Confused,” and he kept many of us hooked through the wayward choices and chick-flick junk of the 1990s and 2000s. Lately, of course, he has paid dividends for that loyalty, with fluid, risky, whip-smart performances in films like “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “Killer Joe,” and “Mud.” He has seemed to be working up to something big, and a lot of people will think it’s his role here — a Texas good old boy named Ron Woodroof who contracted HIV and became a hero of the alternative-medicine underground in the late 1980s.
Certainly this kind of part announces an actor’s seriousness, if not his Oscar-readiness: a “risky” social issue, a compelling real-life human-interest story, radical weight loss in the interests of drama. McConaughey has always been a bit of a stick insect but his first appearance in “Dallas Buyers Club” is genuinely alarming. Well into his sickness but not yet aware he’s infected, Woodroof is a wraith of a rodeo con man, clothes draping slackly on his skeletal frame, mean little eyes burning behind oversize aviators. He looks like Dennis Weaver crossed with a coat hanger.