“The McConaissance”, a term coined by writer Rachel Syme that quickly became canon in the film industry, referring to actor Matthew McConaughey transforming from the guy who runs shirtless on the beach and stars in romantic comedies like Failure to Launch, to a serious, award winning actor finely tuned in the craft and able to disappear into characters. It is generally accepted that McConaughey’s turns in Killer Joe and Mud sparked buzz on the indie scene that the actor was trying something new, then 2013 hit with force and he churned out a murderer’s row of unique performances, taking the industry by storm. In the span of less than a year, he grabbed an Oscar for Dallas Buyer’s Club, stole every second he was in from his Oscar competition Leo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, and polished it off with a breathtakingly mysterious and powerful performance on HBO’s True Detective. The McConaissance was in full force.
So here we are in 2017 and McConaughey’s name still inspires excitement when casting news breaks. Sure, it makes sense, given just how successful he was in that year. The most recent example of this was the announcement over a year ago that he would be going head-to-head with Idris Elba in the big budget adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Coming in at a less-than stellar 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie appears to be a cookie cutter, run of the mill action film, to which McConaughey’s villian does not add much. In the wake of underwhelming 2016 releases like Free State of Jones, Sea of Trees, and Gold, I propose it is time we stop getting excited for McConaughey vehicles, and realize we’ve regressed back to the mean.
Aesthetically, it will not seem that way. McConaughey may not choose projects like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days anymore, so his releases may appear to have more prestige or lend themselves to more robust characters. At age 47, he will be less of a sex symbol, and take roles that bank on his acting rather than his looks. The problem is, I am just not sure there’s enough to convince me he’s a good actor. He had a great year, like an athlete who is a lifelong starter and finally has that one good season to make an all-star team. And let’s not forget that during the years where he was a joke on screen, he still had roles like We Are Marshall and Two for the Money. He took his shots at the serious roles, yet he was still the guy known for running shirtless with Lance Armstrong and inspiring Family Guy cutaways like this:
I have nothing against the guy, and I do like a lot of his work. I just think he’s been given a little more cache than he deserves.
*Nice year for writer/producer Akiva Goldsman here in 2017. Rings, King Arthur, Transformers 5, and now The Dark Tower, each of which he had a hand in. Those ADD UP to a solid 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Goldsman has one of the stranger resumes in Hollywood. Highs as high as being the main writer and Oscar winner for A Beautiful Mind, yet lows as low as writing Batman & Robin. He is apparently now at the helm for all future Transformers scripts, so that’s….good news?
*Ron Howard also had a hand in writing Dark Tower, so allow me to over-react for a second. A common thread you see in the Rotten Tomatoes blurbs is that the movie takes beloved and captivating source material and turns it into a generic action movie. Too early to think about the Han Solo movie? It is a stretch, but we surely would be more optimistic if Tower had been a win. And on top of that, for Solo, Howard is taking the reigns from two of the most creative film makers working today.
*The McConaissance operates under the assumption of objective positivity when it comes to Oscars, but I can safely say I’ve never heard someone sing the praises of Dallas Buyer’s Club. (And I talk movies with about 9/10 people I interact with).