Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Were we all wrong about Matthew McConaughey?

Well many of us were certainly wrong when we tried to spell his name without looking it up first. It’s almost as hard to get right as “diarrhea”. Now, in previous years I would have worked that mention of loose …

Sun, Jun 24, 2012, 18:06

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Well many of us were certainly wrong when we tried to spell his name without looking it up first. It’s almost as hard to get right as “diarrhea”. Now, in previous years I would have worked that mention of loose bowels into an analysis of Mr McConochitchy’s disappointing films. Ever since emerging as an effective stoner in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, he has has been working his way through a truly ghastly series of brain-dead romantic comedies. Directors have asked him to do little more than look confused while Ms J Aniston or M S J Parker exhausts her misguided obsession with somebody slightly less famous and decides to get on board the McCanorkity Express. We have, thank heavens, seen few worse films than Fools Gold, Sahara or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Write him off. He’s no use to anybody.

Well, loath though I am to admit it, I used to say the same thing about Matt Damon. For a few years, Matt looked every bit as uninteresting as the puppet version depicted  in Team America: World Police. (A joke he enjoys, incidentally.) But his obvious intelligence eventually won through and his presence is now something I celebrate. Heck, I’m even coming round to his old pal Ben Affleck.

What do you know? Several smart directors have now discovered the right way to treat Matthew McCrotchetic. Bizarrely, he appeared in two films in the main competition at Cannes this year: he was solid in Lee Daniels’s deranged The Paperboy and excellent in Jeff Nichols’s first-class Mud. Later this week you can enjoy his turn as a cop who moonlights as a killer in William Freidkin’s very enjoyable Killer Joe.

The trick, as is often the case, is to locate such an actor’s persona and ensure that he doesn’t drift too far from the ideal template. You might call it the Keanu Reeves Gambit. Mr Reeves is excellent when playing  blank dreamboats or messianic cyphers. He is less good when essaying brain surgeons or nuclear physicists.

In both Mud and Killer Joe, McNockity plays sinister loners whose surface charm conceals arrays of danger and malevolence. His very blankness adds to the complexity of the characters. If he were a little less good looking he would seem a little less worrying. You get the sense that admiration has done nothing for the character’s efforts (undoubtedly paltry in Killer Joe) to live any sort of decent life.

So, for the moment, we will lay off the McNorkektity gags. He’s earned the right to enjoy a little bit of adulation. Worse actors have won Oscars. Not that this is saying very much.

We will certainly never post the following video again.

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