Matthew McConaughey’s latest turn as a car spokesman for the new Lincoln MKC is a collection of snippets from a presumably ambling Texas-sized brand of life that make me never want to grace the upholstery of a foreign-born car with my backside ever again.
The good-ol’-boy. The movie star. The comically infused charmer. The recalcitrant genius. The guru in no need of a mountain top. Notably a version of himself, McConaughey is driving to a someday unannounced. Suddenly, he veers left off the freeway, embarking on the endless voyage of the American mile.
Alone in thought and perhaps action but not driving just to drive. Driving to live. To breathe. Or driving to simply be left alone—away. To scratch the surface of something intense and grand and unattainable. To speed along suspended barely above the Earth. The inner-dialogue spills out of the over-sized cup holder as he careens into the night, leaning in to the steering wheel peering toward the heavens asking “This car? Fly? Why not?” with that squint.
The spots are emboldened by farce. They inhabit a post-urban landscape that is garnished with the actor’s carefully crafted oblivious rancor and the stream-of-consciousness that marks a man’s inner dialogue. A man who left everything behind or maybe had nothing to begin with. McConaughey does what McConaughey does.
He makes us ask ourselves whether he’s serious. Is the car serious? Are we serious?
Oh, he’s serious. And we are left but to splashing around his celestial pond and left but to wonder not why not, but why not more?
The relentless examination of a middle-aged actor’s physical and perhaps psychic deafening morality is exactly the opposite the way we thought it would look, should look, from him. The latest in the lineage of the world’s great car salesmen. McConaughey is the heir to Mantalban’s Cordoba with Corinthian Leather ad-lib and David Leisure’s Joe Isuzu juggernaut. And yet, none of his predecessors did it with such precision, such poetry.
And nobody did it the year they won an Oscar.
Like life itself, it’s not possession that creates reality, it’s the other way around. When McConaughey’s prose is too much to bear, it means that we mortals who spew out a thousand less-worthy missives: on work calls, over lunch, in longing messages we never send, are all the more inferior.
McConaughey knows the only right response is “Yes.” In this case, yes you will buy an American car. But I am still left to ponder: Is he coming or going? Is he driving in the wee hours of the morning after, not quite hungover? Or is he on his way out? Is he escaping the rigors of his family, his duties as a husband and a father? Or is he racing home to see them?
His wedding band is as prominent as any glowy doohickey on the dash and yet, no baby seat or goldfish crackers have blemished this interior. Quickly and swiftly and unapologetically, the realization comes: It matters not to where we run, we’re running to a McConaughean future. Where today’s responsibility does a curious dance with the careless past. Naked bongo playing all stoned awash in peck sweat and Lone Star meets tear-filled and cut-short acceptance speeches where he gets it good just before he gets it just right.
The Lincoln commercials are daring and purposefully inert. Are we watching a man driving a luxury crossover-something that looks like a Toyota Previa with pinched cheeks and leather interior? Is he supposed to be anonymous? He can’t be.
He is McConaughey.
And the economy of McConaughey is ultimately what’s being studied here. It’s what’s for sale here. It’s what’s at stake here. McConaughey inhabits all kind of American manscape, so many at the same time that we’ll one day find there were sixteen in total, dispatched from a planet we call Planet M but is really known to the rest of the universe by numbers we don’t recognize and symbols we can’t decipher.
We’ve been introduced to thirteen of the McConaugheys thus far: He is David Wooderson. He is Jake Brigance. He is Ed Pekurny. He is Palmer Joss. He is Steve Edison. He is Dallas. He is Mud. He is Mick Haller. He is Mark Hanna. He is Tripp. He is Dirk Pitt. He is Ron Woodroof. He is Rust Cohle.
Of the three others we don’t yet know about, (two-and-a-half if you count the one who dated Sandra Bullock before that McConaughey was called back to his home and executed for such a transaction) one of them came here to sell the shit out of a car.
His prose is terse but dense with aspiration. He rattles in perfect McConaughese.
Sentence fragments connected by direct synapses. Darting eyes, protruding jowls. Looking onto the horizon with some secret thick on his lips. And a wry, dimpled grin and half turn away from the camera. It’s there the reveal, just out of your earshot. Out of your sight line.
And yet, he leaves us with plenty of clues with his ambiguously evocative verbal inconsistencies:
Sometimes you gotta go back
To actually move forward
I don’t mean going back to reminisce or to chase ghosts
I mean to go back to see where you came from
Where you been, how you got here
See where you’re going
I know there are those that say you can’t go back
Yes you can
Just have to look into the right place
Fuckin’-A right McC. It’s like being on the other side of a seance and we’re riding shotgun with the spirit. This ad is the sixty-second pause before he communicates back.
Aged 44 Earth years, this McConaughey has worked fast. Since 40 he has turned in a half-dozen performances of a lifetime. An attorney who works from a car (a Lincoln). A homophobic early AIDS patient who rides bulls and discovers his heart in the dilemma of an incurable disease. A petty criminal who becomes a father figure in the forgotten South. A male stripper Svengali. A sociopath sternum-thumping stock broker. A detective which a heart more sinister and blacker than the murderer he eclipses.
Conformity has never been his thing. Being superbly here has been. And that’s where I want to be. Riding shotgun.
“Cooler’s in the back big man.”
“Where are we going Matt?”
“Call me Mr McConaughey.”
“Where are we going Mr. McConaughey?”
“That’s up to you friend. That’s up to you.”