We all know the Matthew McConaughey of the late 90s and early 2000s. His roles required Matthew to flash that brilliant white smile, wink at ladies, deliver some lines in his appealing drawl, and to take off his shirt from time to time. Even in Contact, when he played opposite Jodie Foster as a surprisingly sexy pastor, his character only went so deep.
He was given a philosophical line or two, but was mostly expected to look pretty. This isn’t to say that Matthew wasn’t good in these roles – I admit that I found myself really falling in love with his character in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. He pulled off the silly humor and added spark to romantic comedies. No one can deny that. But if anyone were to tell me that he’d have a role with some real grit and gravitas, I probably would have laughed.
And yet, actors can surprise you with their range. Jim Carrey, the over-the-top goofball who gibbered and fell all over himself as a pet detective, turned out to be shockingly poignant in The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. So it should not have shocked me when I saw Matthew McConaughey as a hardened old detective with a nihilistic streak in the television series True Detective.
Indeed, he does a truly beautiful job of playing the world-tired, shockingly brilliant investigator. He manages to deliver lines that, given to any other actor, would fall flat and sound horribly contrived. He sucks down cigarettes and squints at the evils of the world, quoting great authors. I am entirely drawn in and convinced by this new persona he adopts, and even forgot about his roles as a shirtless surfer. He’s proven himself to be able to delve deep and to explore great complexity of the psyche.