I wouldn’t call myself poor, but I don’t have enough money to spend even an extra $15 a month frivolously. That’s why I only just recently became a “True Detective” fan, though I’m not too far behind the bandwagon. I watched the season finale only a week after it aired live.
(Let me explain things a little better. My husband and I only buy HBO for 10 weeks in March/April, so we can watch “Game of Thrones.” I throw in the entire season of “Girls” On Demand and this year, “True Detective.”)
Now that you understand why this post wasn’t written weeks ago, I will commence with my thoughts about the show’s star, Matthew McConaughey.
I’ve seen many of McConaughey’s films. Most of them are horrible, but in a delightful way. “Sahara,” “Failure to Launch,” “The Wedding Planner -” these are not Oscar contenders, but entertaining. I’ve always thought he was quite a hunk, a “mimbo” if you will, but little more than that. A pretty face, a hot bod, eye candy. But a serious artist? No way.
But ever since “Magic Mike” I’ve changed my mind about his acting talents. And not because I’m a woman who enjoys male strippers; I say this without the influence of my libido. McConaughey is likely the most underrated actor in Hollywood.
I have no training in acting, I barely understand it’s practice, and I don’t want to act in my local theater group. But I understand and love movies. When I write, I picture my scenes as if they were in a film and try to write with cinematic flair, moving the camera in and out and across the landscape. I hear dialogue dramatically, as if it were being spoken by an actor.
The difference, I think (and it’s certainly not the only difference) between books and movies is that in a book, many elements carry a story. This is true in a movie as well, but the story is primarily told by the actor – in the way he inhabits and portrays his character.
There are some actors who say the words, who may even insert some emotion and make the role their own. They’re perfectly fine actors – I’m thinking Leo DiCaprio as an example. He’s a great actor but you always see his face and his voice in every movie. You say – “hey, I like that Leo guy” whenever you see him on screen. Of course you do – his face is right there! Stick with me.
Then there are other actors whose every skin cell and hair follicle changes with every role. The story is made stronger and better and more memorable simply because they were part of the telling.
This where I circle back to my beloved Matthew and “True Detective.” From the very first scene, I didn’t see the actor Matthew McConaughey standing in the cane field. I saw Rust Cohle, a real, flesh and blood person, studying a crime scene. His entire demeanor, from the way he held his body, to the style of his hair, to the expression on his face and the way he walked, McConaughey inhabited as Rust Cohle. Woody Harrelson at his side was still Woody Harrelson, not Marty Hart.
And because Rust Cohle was real, the dead woman posed beneath the tree, the investigation, the cruel landscape of impoverished Louisiana, became more real, too.
(And before you read on, here are two more clips, a little more proof that McConaughey is a chameleon.
I’m not sure what it is that makes the kind of actor I see in McConaughey (Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis being two other examples) different from others. I don’t know how he manages to transform his being entirely, molding himself to his role like he’s stepping into new skin. But the talent is mesmerizing.
I can understand what’s required, however. The actor and writer both must get inside a character’s head. If your character is a serial killer, you have to understand him inside and out, you have to live his life, speak his words, practice his vices, cry when he cries. But the effort is worth it – for the audience. When I think about “True Detective,” I remember Rust Cohle the most. He made that story great, and Matthew McConaughey was nowhere in it. He disappeared inside the story.
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