Saw it tonight and really, really enjoyed it. I agree that 4 or possibly 4.5 out of 5 stars is about right. McConaughey is as good as everyone is saying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins an Oscar for the role. Jared Leto was likewise very good, though his portrayal was just a tad too caricatured for my taste. Jennifer Garner, who I usually really like - and was good in this - was comparatively the weak link.
Nice screenplay and direction as well. You really believed the progression of events and the development of the characters. When the credits rolled and the name of the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, appeared, I was a bit surprised that a presumably French director (actually, I see that he is Quebecois) could seemingly so accurately portray lower-class Texas life in the 1980s. But there you have it.
One thing that doesn’t seem like it should be a spoiler, but that I’ll hide anyway…
I had no idea until the very end that the movie was based on a true story. Unless I missed it they did not announce that at the beginning. I think my ignorance enhanced my viewing pleasure, as sometimes with “based on true life” movies I inadvertently find myself drawn out of the moment, wondering how accurate what I’m seeing is.
I’ve only seen a handful of the Best Picture nominees this year, but this one is probably the best so far. American Hustle was a bit slack for my taste: 3 or 3.5/5. 12 Years a Slave was very affecting, and probably 4/5.