The Return (and Re-Birth) of Matthew McConaughey
Can we all just take a moment to stand and give a round of applause to Matthew McConaughey here? Can we salute this man? This man has done what very few in Hollywood have been able to accomplish. Oh sure, you've got your John Travolta's, your Ben Affleck's and your Robert Downey, Jr.'s. But for every Burt Reynolds, who went from playing Otter Bob the Mountain Man in a made for TV Sinbad movie to playing Jack freaking Horner in one of the best movie's of 90's in Boogie Nights (and getting an Oscar nomination for it), you've got a whole plethora of Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s and, well, until recently, Matthew McConaughey's. Actors and actresses who's careers were once part of the bright, shining constellation of stars that dotted Hollywood's cinematic skies until poor decisions (on or off the screen) brought those stars, now more like meteorites, once hot and burning with brilliance, crashing down to earth and quickly cooling upon arrival, oddities from another time and place. Something to be regarded with detached interest. Interest in where they came from, not where they ended up.
But every once in a while those falling stars decide their time in the heavens is not yet up and reverse the trajectory of their plummet. Matthew McConaughey has accomplished such a feat, pulling himself from the jaws of the redundancy that is the Hollywood rom-com and the anmesia that is the mindless Hollywood action blueprint and choosing scripts, rather than paycheques, to save his career from the punchline it had become.
McConaughey has been so busy the last couple years it's hard to know what movie was filmed when, but right around the time Killer Joe was gearing up for release (and gaining notoriety for its hard subject matter and NC-17 rating) people began to regain consciousness in regards to this man's career. If Killer Joe turned out to be any good (and it was) this would be three for three for McConaughey (that sentence wrote itself); the solid legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer, the fantastic and criminally under-seen Bernie and now this? And though we couldn't see it at the time, right around the corner from Killer Joe was Magic Mike, The Paperboy (admittedly a slip-up. A better movie in theory than execution, but an admirable miss nonetheless) and Mud. Not to mention currently having Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street in the bag and Christopher Nolan's next head scratcher Interstellar in its initial birthing stage, this is turning into one hell of a new millennial second decade for the man who's career started out so promising but which, just a few short years ago, was seeing him following drab snoozers like Failure To Launch with We Are Marshall and Fool's Gold. Retch.
Who can forget McConaughey's iconic breakthrough role as the hilarious but creepish David Wooderson in the classic Dazed and Confused? That role was the announcement of something special and after a few forgettable roles in a few forgettable films, he landed his 'big break' role starring in the big screen adap of John Grisham's bestseller A Time To Kill.
Then, with a couple notable exceptions in the likes of Amistad and Frailty, the free fall into mediocrity.
Now, we're finally seeing the Matthew McConaughey we first got excited about, the one who showed such initial promise proclaiming in that first role that the best thing about high school girls is that while he keeps getting older, they stay the same age.
Why he decided to wait so long to start choosing his roles more carefully, I don't know. It could be the easy answer of course. The answer that found screen giants like Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro fail to sustain the high level of work and promise of their early careers. And that answer is of course, the payday.
Fill the bank accounts to bursting with millions, buy the swanky Beverly Hills abodes and the cars that cost more than most houses and when you've had your fill...hold out for the good roles.
I could be wrong of course. Maybe McConaughey was just taking the best of what he was offered. Maybe he thought the movies he was accepting were going to turn out to be good, maybe he was banging his costars.
Whatever the reason for poor choices, Mr. Shirtless has certainly turned his tide and won for himself a career currency in Hollywood which is more valuable than dollars; respect.
Where he goes from here is up to him. With his recent smattering of independent critical faves and high profile moneymakers on the horizon, he could easily turn hisself into the Southern states' answer to Leonardo DiCaprio. Or he could turn back into a mediocre, but probably very rich, tinsel town punchline. Time will tell.