I know I am not alone in having shifted my view on Matthew McConaughey in recent months. With the swift one-two punch of his performances in Dallas Buyers Club and, more importantly, HBO’s True Detective, it’s hard to ignore his shift. Half-naked king of the romcom for much of his career, coupled with what seemed like very little personality, McConaughey has always been easy to peg, apart from a few good turns in a few mostly overlooked earlier films (A Time to Kill, Contact, Amistad and Frailty spring to mind. These films touched the surface of what McConaughey might be capable of, but he did not go in that direction – or perhaps he did not get the opportunity to do so until later – confirming the idea that men become more interesting as they get older – at least for me).
His path to “career rebranding”, which some have referred to as his “McConnaissance”, is chronicled in a number of articles that actually point to McConaughey’s wife, crediting her influence for his recent choices – not pushing him but supporting him to make his own choices. I have given that concept a lot of thought (i.e. “Behind every great man is an even greater woman”). While something quite that extreme might not be completely the case, I have seen a lot of cases where a person (man or woman) can be more of a follower until someone who is totally supportive of them and their vision for themselves inspires them to lead their own way. Perhaps this grounding influence moved McConaughey out of the mindless and shirtless romcom arena, in the more thoughtful direction his current career has taken him. As the New Yorker article observes: “The McConaughey that we are getting now is casually weird and much darker than expected. He seems unshackled after decades of trying to be a matinée idol, an affable, guileless human glass of sweet tea.” What better way to describe it?
McConaughey’s roles in small, somewhat overlooked films (later in his career), such as Bernie, quietly propelled him in a new direction. Then with a powerhouse succession of small and large roles in Mud, Magic Mike, The Wolf of Wall Street (the only part of the movie I liked), he was well-primed to take people by surprise in the aforementioned Dallas Buyers Club and the great True Detective.
Considered, reconsidered: I can’t definitively say that I love and revere McConaughey as an actor, but he is the best thing in a great show (True Detective) – I was hooked immediately. I do hope this trend of interesting and unusual choices continues.