The McConaissance: Your guide to Matthew McConaughey's comeback



Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was the last straw. Matthew McConaughey had built up a solid back catalogue of rom-com duds throughout the noughties, becoming best known for his vaguely off-putting permatan and inability to stand up straight in posters.

But the grisly Ghosts, which starred McConaughey as a bachelor literally haunted by his failed relationships, was the tipping point. "I was getting a lot of the same sort of submissions," he told Digital Spy recently, "some comedies, some action adventure, and I remember thinking 'I like that, but I could do that next week'.


"I want to read something that spooks me and scares me and challenges me and makes me feel like 'I don't know what I'm gonna do with that, but I can't wait to find out'. So what I had to do was say no to some things."

He did, and it worked out pretty well for him. After a six-month dry spell, he started getting calls from the likes of William Friedkin and Steven Soderbergh, and so began the critical hot streak that has now brought McConaughey to the front of the pack for this year's Best Actor Oscar.

In case you've missed the McConaissance in real time, here are the essential films to get you caught up.




The Lincoln Lawyer

It all began here. McConaughey's turn in the title role of this slick, sleazy Michael Connelly adaptation was the first that made critics sit up and take notice. After coasting on that Southern drawl and "just keep livin'" persona for so many years, McConaughey spun his established image into something a few shades darker – as low-rent lawyer Mickey Haller, he's got all the old charm and the swagger, but with an intriguingly grimy, morally compromised edge that hinted at things to come.




Killer Joe

Talk about morally compromised. McConaughey himself has identified his career turning point as the moment when he got the call from director William Friedkin, asking him to play the deeply twisted romantic lead in Tracy Letts' black-hearted Southern Gothic drama. The film treads a very fine line between outlandish and exploitative, and succeeds in large part thanks to McConaughey's perfect pitched performance as Joe, a contract killer who takes a client's teenage sister (Juno Temple) as sexual collateral.





Magic Mike

Steven Soderbergh's male stripping movie might feel like a spot of light relief compared to much of the McConaissance fare, but club owner Dallas is a fascinatingly tragic and seedy character in his own right. While many of the oiled-up Adonises that work the XQuisite Strip Club – including Channing Tatum's old pro Mike – gradually come to reconsider their career paths, Dallas is always pushing forward, driven by a combination of greed and nostalgia for his own stripping glory days.






Mud

Possibly the most understated performance to date from McConaughey 2.0 came in Jeff Nichols' third feature Mud. Something between fairy tale and coming-of-age drama, the film follows a pair of young boys who come across a mysterious drifter named Mud (McConaughey) and make a pact to help him reunite with his lost love. Mud is also the role that took McConaughey furthest away from his established screen persona – he conveys a less flashy, more shadowy kind of charisma, in-keeping with the tone of Nichols' semi-enchanted world.






True Detective

The combination of Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective means that McConaughey is in with a very, very strong shot of winning both an Oscar and an Emmy in 2014. Written entirely by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, this mesmerising HBO mini-series follows two detectives (McConaughey and real-life buddy Woody Harrelson) over a 17-year period as they investigate a particularly disturbing murder. It's McConaughey's Rustin Cohle that defines the show's tone – a haunted, edgy nihilist, prone to wax lyrical about the hopelessness of existence and being able to "smell the psychosphere". In the wrong hands, he could be a bore, but in McConaughey's he's the best new TV character of the year by some distance.


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We are truly blessed to be walking the same earth as this talented god! PS THIS IS ALSO A RUST COHLE APPRECIATION/LUST POST