The first 20 years of Matthew McConaughey’s career were a mixed bag. Of course, he had his hilarious breakout role in “Dazed and Confused,” and then he quickly became someone Hollywood looked to make a leading man. After all, he was charismatic and handsome. That’s what they do. He would go on to star in mediocre action movies and successful, though critically disliked, romantic comedies.
Whenever he would be in a big movie by a major filmmaker, like Steven Spielberg or Robert Zemeckis, he was usually seen as the odd man out, not fitting in with the tone of the film or the rest of the cast. McConaughey became a punching bag of sorts, and by the time “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” was released in 2009, it looked over.
Then 2011 comes along, and he stars in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” which is a solid hit and a solid legal thriller, and he has a fun supporting role in the underrated “Bernie,” reuniting him with Richard Linklater. “Killer Joe” premieres at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals and is met with a ton of controversy but a ton of admiration for McConaughey’s wild performance in the title role.
2012 takes things to a whole other level. “Killer Joe” hits theaters, and that is followed up by really splashy titles from major filmmakers in “Magic Mike” and “The Paperboy.” Plus, “Mud” premieres at Cannes. McConaughey was no longer the Hollywood pretty face in rom-coms. He was a serious, versatile character actor taking on challenging roles. “The McConaissance” was here.
Though his stock was rising exponentially, none of these roles are parts that traditionally get nominated for Oscars. The second he was in one of those, though, he was going to be seeing gold. Enter “Dallas Buyers Club.”