Dear Matthew McConaughy
Dear Matthew McConaughey,
I never thought I would say this, but it seems as if we are finally going to have to take you seriously as an actor, 20 years after you first stepped in front of a film camera.
In the mid 90s, looking like a young Paul Newman, you had the makings of a heartthrob, but then disappeared into the lost kingdom of cheesy action films, and lame romcoms, and there was no prospect of you ever coming back. But in the last two years, that’s just what you’ve done. Who’da thunk it?
Appearing in Lone Star, Contact, Amistad and A Time To Kill in the space of about 18 months represented a pretty good start for a young actor who previously had a Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot on his CV. You were young, handsome, and had that good ol’ Texan boy thing down pat – not difficult because you are a good ol’ Texan boy. It all seemed to be very promising, and then – black hole time. No one particular film was the reason, but the accumulation was increasingly depressing. U571 (WW2 rewriting of history), The Wedding Planner (being Jennifer Lopez’s eye candy), Reign Of Fire (idiotic post-apocalyptic dragon movie), How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (another dopey romcom, this time with Kate Hudson), Sahara (really bad action comedy with Penelope Cruz) and Fool’s Gold (virtually identical, only worse), Failure To Launch and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (two lousy romacoms for the price of one). There are more, but this is a truly shocking list of films for one actor to make in less than 10 years. All of them lazy, shallow, dull, and smelling of “I don’t give a shit, just show me the money”. Fair enough, the guy’s got no talent, just the looks and his time is limited. Except…
In 2011, along came The Lincoln Lawyer. Not a masterpiece, but compared to the crap listed above, pretty good. Entertaining, and you even looked as though you were enjoying yourself playing a sleazebag who develops the sliver of a conscience. It was a start, anyway. Then there was Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater, who you worked for in Dazed And Confused years earlier. It’s a lovely little film, with Jack Black on top form, and the great Shirley Maclaine to keep you both company. You’re still doing the lazy lounging dawg of a sheriff number, but it’s fun, and it’s a good film.
But wait, there’s more. Killer Joe is a seriously fucked up movie, but it certainly hits you right between the eyes. Wiliam Friedkin, many decades past his great days, comes up with a role that demands full on crazy, and you deliver. Magnetic, we can’t take our eyes off you, and that scene with the piece of the chicken will live in the memory. Not sure if we’re ready to take you seriously yet, but we’re having fun thinking about it.
And then last year (2012), three in a row, bang bang bang. The Paperboy, Mud and Magic Mike. Three loose cannons, with hunky bodies and slightly crazy eyes, but interesting people, and above all, watchable characters. Of the three, I think Mud is the most interesting and demanding. You play a guy on the run living in a boat up a tree, who makes friends with two kids who help him. It’s like Great Expectations crossed with Stand By Me.In Magic Mike, you’re a stripper/entrepreneur with attitude. They’re all attention-stealing performances which have set you up for The Big One, The Dallas Buyer’s Club. This is an Oscar showstopper. You lost a lot of weight. You play a character with AIDS. You’re a nasty guy who finds a kind of redemption. You may not win an Oscar, but I will be beyond staggered if you don’t get nominated – and rightfully so.
Then we’ll see you in the new Scorsese film, The Wolf Of Wall Street, and beyond that in the new Christopher Nolan film. Even a new TV series sees you alongside Woody Harrelson. Suddenly you’re playing in the big time, and everyone wants Matthew in their films. What happened? Did you wake up one morning in 2009, realise you’re 40, and think to yourself, “I can’t go on making these godawful films. I’m better than this.” Because 2009 is the year of your last bad film, and that was the year you were 40. Coincidence? Possibly. Maybe the right film came along, and we all started rooting for you again.
Either way, it’s an exciting prospect. You’re not that old in Hollywood terms, you’ve left all your bad cinematic smells behind you (hopefully), and as you get older, and less handsome, you can keep going to new places – which is something that your lookalike Paul Newman never really did. There is no limit to the possibilities that are waiting for you.
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