Late Night Rant: Jared Leto and Dallas Buyers Club
Time has certainly taught us that when it comes to assessment of events, historical moments, artistic movements, etc, that we will never know the full extent of it’s reach and significance until years later. I’ve heard the idea proposed that, instead of handing out Academy Awards for the immediately preceding year, the Academy waits, perhaps, 5 years. It seems like a fair, if not completely implausible, solution to the knee-jerk reactions and Hollywood politicking that plagues the awards season. Heck, a simple wave of momentum can swing the Academy completely in an opposite direction in a matter of weeks. Crash, the most shameful of Academy winners in recent memory, would surely place no better than fifth in that year given the 5 year time frame. Therefore, we would have saved ourselves from the agonizing bewilderment of Paul Haggis actually winning an Oscar. We should have known better then. We definitely know better now.
Ok, rant aside, I’d like to discuss one particular winner from this previous year’s awards ceremony. Now that I’ve seen Dallas Buyers Club, I’m not so sure we got Jared Leto right. He turns in a fine performance, but surely there was better last year (Michael Fassbender, to name one). So that brings into question the factors that led to his win. Leto hasn’t been seen in a film in a few years, so it’s a comeback story. I get those, Ben Affleck rode the comeback wave to a Best Picture win for Argo just the previous year. Playing a transgender role and losing a bunch of weight are also factors, just look at Matthew McConaughey winning Best Actor for the same film (though his performance outshone Leto’s in my opinion). But what did Leto do, except from play up a stereotype? Enunciating his S’s and acting effeminate seemed to be enough for Academy voters to buy the transgender transformation. But how many time have we seen that kind of behavior and performance acted out for humor on shows like “Saturday Night Live” and such?
All that aside, there’s a larger issue with the character that I feel played a part in the voting. The film’s creators have noted that Leto’s character, “Rayon”, was an act of fiction and this character never existed in Ron Woodroof’s life. So, why fabricate a character out of thin air if he didn’t exist, especially since this film depicts a true account of real events? Simply put, the character was a necessity of script and served an important fictional function. The Ron Woodroof character is painted as severely homophobic at the outset. A chance meeting with Rayon leads Woodroof into his marketplace of AIDS victims, thus the relationship begins as strictly financial. They become business partners, friends, and after all is said and done Rayon becomes the focal point of emotion and (SPOILERS) his death becomes the catalyst that leads the film towards it’s end. The question, then, becomes, did voters over-value the performance based on the importance of the Rayon to the other characters and not the performance of the ACTOR? Rayon has little to no character arc except to serve as a reflection of Woodroof’s arc, which is far greater.
I don’t have a major problem with Jared Leto’s win, but I think it’s worth thinking about what we valued about that performance.