The Trailer for Dallas Buyers Club Hits All the Right Oscar Notes

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 27 2013 6:37 PM

Matthew McConaughey Might Win That Oscar

dallas buyers club
Matthew McConaughey in the trailer forDallas Buyers Club

When an actor loses a lot of weight, or plays a historical figure, or takes on a character with a terrible disease, the dreaded term “Oscar bait” is sure to rear its head. With the Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey hit the trifecta: He stars as Ron Woodroof, a Texas man who died from an AIDS-related illness in 1992. Before his death, he started something called the Dallas Buyers Club, a distribution service that imported unregulated AIDS treatments from abroad.

The trailer begins with Ron living it up with women, booze, and bull riding, only to simmer down quickly once he’s diagnosed with HIV. After being denied treatment with the new AZT drug by his doctor (Jennifer Garner), he turns to the black market and comes head to head with the disapproving Food and Drug Administration. (In reality, though the FDA did warn AIDS patients about one of Woodroof’s drugs in particular, they seem to have largely taken a “look the other way” approach with Woodroof and his club.)

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The overall mood and style of the trailer is as Oscar-bait-y as you’d expect, with a rousing rock score that evokes the late ’80s and clips of McConaughey shouting rallying cries at his opposition (“People are dying,” he pleads at one point). And the actor isn’t the only one who has gone through a drastic physical transformation: A barely recognizable Jared Leto plays a transsexual woman named Rayon, who helps Ron with his business.

The trailer suggests that Ron will undergo an inner journey as dramatic as the actor’s weight loss, from homophobia towards acceptance. Maybe McConaughey will finally win that Oscar he should have gotten last year.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture blogger for Brow Beat. Follow her on Twitter.