Alright, Alright, Alright: An Examination on The Evolution of Matthew McConaughey’s Career


If there is an actor in the last decade who has has undergone a more impressive evolution than Matthew McConaughey, I do not know who that is. Where once, he was known as the “shirtless wonder” (I feel compelled to tell you he was never known as that. I just made it up because it felt right) and his roles primarily consisted of him looking handsome and wooing Kate Hudson or some cinematic variation thereof. It was movie making at its most trite. But McConaughey was smart, even back then. He knew he could ride the coat tails of handsomocity for a while, and did that. But he was biding his time during that period. He knew what he was capable of, and on a few occasions, we saw hints of that as well. But he needed to earn his stripes, and the way he did that was very interesting, and rather brilliant when you look at it from a distance. That is just what we will do here. Take a look at the evolution of Matthew McConaughey’s career. From stoner cliche’ to master craftsman (who is probably still stoned.)


Just seemed like anytime you saw this guy in the first half of his career, THIS is how you saw him.

First off, I think we can all agree that most of our first introductions to Matthew McConaughey was when he rolled into site (so many puns intended) in Dazed and Confused, playing the charming and slightly creepy David Wooderson. That very mentality he carried in that movie would be brought with him every where he went, role he played, and interview he did, for the next decade. Any version we got of McConaughey was just David Wooderson at a different point in his life. Good looking dude who seems high and gets a lot of ass. He might surf in some movies. He might be a treasure hunter in some movies, but he was always THAT dude. The thing none of us understood (and something I may be very off about here, but roll with me anyway), he was branding himself. He really was. The funny part is, I could bust out his classic “alright, alright, alright” in any room in any town in any city and everyone will know who it is. Is that because my Matthew McConaughey impression is the best in the world (I would like to think so, but) no. It is because the man branded himself brilliantly. Comically at first, no doubt. But brilliantly in the long run.

Now we can ask. Did he challenge himself in his early career? On few occasions, to be honest. Mostly he knew to win over the female demographic first (while he was still in his “prime”) with the shirtless rom-coms, and just sit back and wait to win over the rest of the world. He knew what he was capable of, but was not getting those scripts yet. So he took what was offered and what was fairly high profile, and just did his thing. But then The Lincoln Lawyer came along. Though there had been hints this dude was more than just a “dude”, this was the first time he relied on going not-shirtless and putting some soul into his roles. This began what was essentially a firestorm of brilliant film choices and performances. In many ways, Matthew McConaughey pulled a Pokemon and evolved to second level right before our eyes. Suddenly, the “shirtless wonder” was showing the audience a side we, let’s be honest, did not think him capable of. I mean, from Bernie to The Paperboy to Killer Joe, he was just dropping jaws left and right.


The Killer Joe “chicken leg” scene pretty much forever changed how I saw this guy.

Well, honestly, Killer Joe is what did it for me. I know he went full McConaughey after Killer Joe with Magic Mike, but at that point, he earned it. If you have not seen William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, you need to do that, right now. Somehow, the dude who used to just want to sit and play his bongos with no shirt on was one of the most uncomfortable, disgusting, imposing characters I had seen on screen in a very long time. For me, personally, that is when the shift happened. The funny part is, it hit me during that movie that he knew what he was doing all along. The self branding, the (false) shallow appearance, the rom coms. He knew what he could do the whole time, but knew he would have to work his ass off to get there. Working your ass off sometimes means doing movies like Fool’s Gold or Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. It is called paying your dues, and you do it if you want the end result bad enough. Hell, I worked at this site for free for six months. Why? Because look at the end result. You take your hits, you take your bruises, but you prove yourself. That is just what he did. It’s what everyone should do. You can’t jump to the top rung on  a ladder. You climb there, one rung at a time.

This takes us up to Matthew McConaughey, current form. There are two things worth mentioning here. Obviously his unbelievable turn as Rust Cohle on True Detective. Honestly, one of my favorite TV characters ever. Anything he said and did was just mesmerizing, and the show was almost perfect (minus that broken ending). Next up, Dallas Buyer’s Club. Do you realize that this is the most impressive physical transformation since Christian Bale in the Machinist? It really is. You cannot watch that movie and convince your brain that he is acting. You believe that he is a man, dying of A.I.D.S, and it is gut wrenching. In other words, it is movie making at its finest. That might even be some “third evolution” shit, but it is still too early to tell.


“Alright, alright, alr….” *drops dead from A.I.D.S

So look back at that trajectory and realize it was a man who was paying his dues, earning his stripes, branding himself, and laughing to himself quietly because he knew what he was capable of the whole time. He just needed someone else to give him the chance to show it. I, being one of his biggest detractors in his rom-com phase can confidently say, he has shown it. Truth is, I am genuinely looking forward to what this actor has in store for us over the next decade (or three).

Guys, go read my site and like my Facebook page. I think I might be homeless soon. Buy me a sandwich, too. This starving artist bit is getting old.

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Remy. I was blown away by Killer Joe, then I was astounded with what he did in True Detective … but then once I finally watched Dallas Buyer’s Club, that was my ah-ha moment. I was in awe. Unbelievable skill presented by Matthew in that film. (not to mention Jared Leto as well)

    Though I think before Lincoln Lawyer, he showed signs of what he could do with A Time To Kill (also lawyer based)

    Good read – thanks!

      1. Indeed. I also am of the opinion that he’s been secretly holding back, like it’s been a big scheme this entire time to wait. (and – if you look into his acceptance speech at the Oscars you could read into that as if it has been his “plan”) … things that make you go “hmmmm?”

  2. I agree with you Remi, but as I was reading I tought to myself “damn, there was that movie with him and sandra Bullock in the 90’s where he was excellent” Glad you brough it up Lucas. After that film I remember thinking to myself that these where two very good actors who would do great movies in the future. Took me a couple of years to think that again…

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