Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Actors Of Distinct Character — His Name Is Mud

I was not a fan of Matthew McConaughey. Weighing whether or not I was going to see a film he was in his presence would tip me against it. I’ve since changed my mind. As I think back on it, it might have been the character (sleazy, unctuous) he played regularly, combined with the fact that he played those characters so well that it made me squirm.  I began to change my ways when they made a movie out of my favorite of Michael Connelly’s books, The Lincoln Lawyer. I wasn’t thrilled they picked McConaughey to play the title role.  On the other hand, I knew instantly it was the right choice.  Here was a charming but slimy, opportunist with sliding scale principles.  In that sense Connelly captured and McConaughey delivered a spot-on stand-in of the country’s legal system. There’s a major leap from the law to justice. The character and the actor walked the razor’s edge between despicable and redeemable.
McConaughey in Mud

In the film, Mud, McConaughey has confirmed, now, through a significant body of work, that he has carved out a permanent place among the great male character actors, each creating a singular mark in the profession, character actors so strong they can carry a film, much as McConaughey did with Mud. We saw the seeds of this character in A Time To Kill (an adaption of John Grisham’s best, now on Broadway) and the result of that loss of Innocence in The Lincoln Lawyer.  Now we see it gain and again, most recently in Killer Joe and The Paperboy, and before that in Magic Mike.  It’s obvious we’re not witnessing an actor pursuing the same goals as Daniel Day-Lewis or Robert De Niro, becoming someone entirely different for each role, but creating an original “type’ in much the same way as Christopher Walken, Vincent Price, Charles Laughton, Clifton Webb successfully created original types.

Mud, incidentally, is a worthwhile film. Whatever you may think of Reese Witherspoon – and I like her – she does a great job here as does Sam Shepard.  Talented Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play the two teens, one of them investing his entire view of the world on a drifter’s honor.

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