As the recent spate of reviews lauding Matthew McConaughey will have told you; he’s doing well for himself. But considering the time span in which this turn-around and career revival has been made makes it so much more remarkable. As the title of this article suggests, he was once on his way to the apogee that he now finds himself at. Back in the day, before Matt Damon went on the David Letterman Show to make a quip about how McConaughey would often take off his shirt in romantic comedies, there was a precocious young talent that made a short appearance in John Sayles’ Lone Star. It is precisely this that is referenced in Dallas Buyer’s Club when Jared Leto’s impeccable character ambles into Ron Woodruff, or should I say McConaughey’s, car and utters the line, “I’ve been looking for you, Lone Star”.
It wasn’t just Leto who was looking for McConaughey all this time either. His first major roles in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, and the aforementioned Lone Star showed a lot of promise in his assured delivery and omnipotent presence that remain to this day. But the question remains: where did it all go so, so wrong for this promising actor? My own personal opinion and answer to that question is 2001, but the absolute trough of the wilderness years has to be Failure to Launch, which may have actually made me want to tear my own eyes out. A wonderful, assured and chiseled talent is reduced to mulch. But it was only in 2009 when he last did a truly awful romantic comedy, and this is what makes the career U-turn all the more impressive. In a mere four years, or less if you regard 2011 as the turning point, McConaughey has gone from that guy who stars in mind-numbing romantic comedies to the most revered actor in Hollywood, and, quite possibly, the world.
McConaughey’s very own renaissance has even been documented so quickly that it even becomes a theme in the film. In Dallas Buyers, Ron Woodruff wrestles with his demons, a manifestation of his demon recurs. The rodeo clown comes to him in times of trouble and hallucination to taunt him, and, as I have read it, so do his past comedies. Staring back at McConaughey is the sell-out, and the monkey happy to dance to any old tune for money. But Ron and Matthew have both overcome their demons over time, and have transcended their former glories to be elevated to new heights for their travails. This is signaled by the penultimate scene, when Ron is greeted back at his home by friends and colleagues, but it is not just Ron they are applauding. They are applauding McConaughey and the work he has put in to fulfill his former promise. No more is the rodeo clown that stars in romantic comedies. Now is the age of the McConnaisance.