In 1993 Richard Linklater made a slow-burning coming of age comedy and started the acting career of some new actors, among them a certain Matthew McConaughey who would “alright, alright, alright” to fame in future films.
In the beginning, he was seen as a promising new talent, and singular filmmakers would required his acting services: he worked with John Sayles in ‘Lone Star’, Robert Zemeckis in ‘Contact’ and Spielberg in ‘Amistad’, before he got stuck in forgettable romantic and action comedies like ‘The Wedding Planner’, ‘How to lose a Guy in 10 Days’, ‘Sahara’, ‘Failure to Launch’ and ‘Fool’s Gold’.
During this period, McConaughey built a reputation for being “the sexier man alive”, and a surfing beach-bound guy, but taking from the way his projects have changed direction, you’d think he was just charging batteries and waiting for better times to come.
One of his best performances came along with ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ and soon every following project displayed his talent in full. He is comfortable playing a bad guy (‘Killer Joe”) a stripper (‘Magic Mike’) or any kind of dubious character under the sun…but make sure he has a cowboy hat near, to go with his westerner accent.
Between 2012 and 2013, he has come up with 6 performances to outdo himself, and even 5 minutes in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is enough for him to build an indelible character. His performances in ‘Mud’ and his Oscar nomination for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ confirm his status as a superlative actor.
Here’s a look at some of the performances you don’t want to miss.
Dallas Buyers Club
(2013) Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
This might be his most complex performance to date, but looking at what he’s doing in the TV series ‘True Detective’ and his future projects on the table, I think he will bring more acting “magic”.
McConaughey plays real life rodeo bull rider Ron Woodroof, who is diagnosed HIV+ and informed he only has thirty days to live. Because of the stubbornness of his character, he refuses this fate and after some falls finds the way to extend his life expectancy and help other on the way. The trick here is that Ron is not a “good” man. He doesn’t help others out of generosity. He is actually making a business out of it and confronting the health system as a way to show revenge. But his character does change as he befriends transsexual Rayon (played by Jared Leto) and suddenly his loyalties change 190 degrees.
McConaughey helped finance the film himself, after the project had fell through in different stages. He lost 47 pounds (Leto lost 30) to get under the skin of a very ill person whose strong character wouldn’t let go.
For a full review of Valleé's Oscar Nominated film, please click on the following link:
(2013) Directed by Jeff Nichols
In the shadow of ‘Dallas Buyers Club’s success, McConaughey offered another winning performance as Mud, a gritty and superstitious fugitive who requests the help of two teenagers to help him evade the vigilantes that are going after him. His performance is both mysterious and charismatic.
(2011) Directed by William Friedkin
Based on a stage play, the film presents a group of characters that are so wrong and politically incorrect you might want to take a shower after watching the movie. The film is remembered by a particularly disgusting scene involving fried chicken, Gina Gershon and McConaughey, who plays almighty Joe Cooper, a hired gun whose violent and criminal acts are set against other criminals in a film that tests the audience’s alliances.
For a full review of Friedkin's film, please click on the following link:
The Lincoln Lawyer
(2011) Directed by Brad Fuman
Here, defense attorney Mick Haller who works from his Lincoln, moving around town (one of the few modern films that reflect on this moving isolation) seems to know it all (a typical McConaughey trait). But then he seems to have a crisis of conscience when his latest wealthy client doesn’t seem so innocent after all. This is the performance that moved McConaughey away from the romantic-comedy limbo.
(2012) Directed by Steven Soderbergh
A film with a thin storyline (as thin as Tom Cruise’s ‘Cocktail’) Difference is Soderbergh’s directing and McConaughey is superb as the experienced male stripper “Dallas” who takes on a protégée to expose the secrets to be in business and not fall from grace. McConaughey got much recognition in film festivals, and awards and nominations, but was denied the Oscar that many had foreseen.
The Wolf of Wall Street
(2013) Directed by Martin Scorsese
Another mentor, this time in the infamous world of cold sellers, McConaughey plays Mark Hanna, a guru on how to take money from uniformed citizens, and he only need a couple of scenes to steal the show from DiCaprio, specially when he takes him to lunch and “hypnotizes” him with the immaterial nature of their work. In just a few minutes, thanks to McConaughey’s Corporate-America Fair-Godfather presence you understand what all those sales calls are all about.
Dazed and Confused
(1993) Directed by Richard Linklater
In his very notorious first important role as young and restless David Wooderson, McConaughey set the foundations of his celebrity persona, as a free-spirited “Life’s a Party” guy that would cement his career later as a romantic and adventure-comedy star, and a celebrity referred to as “the Sexiest man alive” by People Magazine.
When he received his best actor award at the Golden Globes for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ he opened his acceptance speech with his first line in this film: “alright, alright, alright”.
(2011) Directed by Richard Linklater
No one has noticed, but McConaughey is the Go-actor to Linklater. Here, he plays a district attorney who is almost sure sweet Bernie is not the man everybody else thinks. With some tricks under his cowboy hat, McConaughey pulls off a convincing almost over-the-top performance in a film that puts nuances away.
(1996) Directed by John Sayles
As legendary sheriff Buddy Deeds, McConaughey creates the first of his double-faced characters, as a man who is both the law and the perpetrator in a film from indie filmmaker John Sayles, famous for not writing generic stories. It is always a pleasure to see a villain who is not ugly or lurking in the dark, but a pretty boy who seems the hero.
A Time To Kill
(1996) Directed by Joel Schumacher
One of his first serious roles, he plays a lawyer involved in a racial crime. The film is based on a novel by John Girsham and also displayed performances from rising stars Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson. His performance made him a staple in courtroom dramas.