With award wins aplenty for Dallas Buyers Club, it would seem Matthew McConaughey’s shirt is staying on for good. Welcome to the McConaissance.
Matthew McConaughey is totally two-faced. Not in the literal, early-appearance-of-Voldemort kind of way, but rather in terms of his acting career. He is both the drawling king of romantic comedies and a dedicated and flawless star of the indie scene. Hopefully the former is firmly in his past and the latter defines his future.
Locked into a prison of cheap romantic roles, the earlier Paul Newman comparisons looked unlikely to be sustained
Examining his film origins, Matthew McConaughey looked set to be on track for a glorious career. Having transformed an originally fleeting turn in Dazed and Confused into a principal role, McConaughey went on to make a good impression with high profile serious leads. Unfortunately, this did not last. His sultry Southern drawl, carefully chiselled body and glistening choppers locked him into a prison of cheap romantic interest roles, from which he would not be eligible for parole from for the next decade. Earlier comparisons made to Paul Newman looked unlikely to be sustained. A more appropriate likeness would have been Jeff Goldblum, a man who spent much of the 90s seeing how low an unbuttoned shirt he could get away with.
The start of the new millennium was the commencement of McConaughey’s potential life sentence in dull, predictable rom-coms. He played a wavering fiancé, a competitive advertising executive, explorers, treasure hunters, a sleazy photographer and even a yacht salesman/mummy’s boy. All of these roles displayed his exceptional talent for needing to be shirtless in almost every other scene, a skill that seemed to have the ladies swooning and the critics cringing. McConaughey looked set to keep scrimping off his abs and accent in the same way that Stallone refuses to hang up the boxing gloves.
However, ten years after this circus of cringe and curls had begun, as though having finally awoken from an acting coma of bad career choices, McConaughey began to shake things up. The shirt now seems to be back on for good, with the necessary exception of Magic Mike, and things are getting serious. Multiple award nominations and rave reviews are the norm for the Matthew McConaughey of 2014. He’s reached middle age and instead of resorting to the midlife crisis roles of his earlier career, he’s playing in the big leagues now.
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Instead of resorting to the midlife crisis roles of his earlier career, Matthew McConaughey’s playing in the big leagues now
Next month will see McConaughey take on the role of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. Playing an AIDS-ridden and emaciated drug smuggler is a far cry from his usual smooth operator typecast, and his performance is already critically acclaimed: in the past fortnight alone he secured a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nod. No longer making do with the intellectually starved but physically alluring characters, it seems that Matt Damon’s impersonations do not hold legitimacy anymore. Because Matthew McConaughey is breaking free from his chains, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Scorsese and Nolan and getting his hands dirty, sometimes quite literally. In return he’s beginning to be recognised as a striking leading man.
Matthew McConaughey does not appear to be alone in his desire for a career outside of butt wiggling and crude jokes. Others who have been trapped by their various labels are setting out to rebel – Ben Stiller has made an impressive directorial return with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, while Jonah Hill is shaking off the Superbad stain and growing up. But the Texan heartthrob is already charming the pants off the critics and is firmly in the midst of a career defining decade. It’s about time we paid attention. The indie scene has a new king – long may he reign.
Featured image: Universal
Inset image: Warner Bros