Greenlights (2020) – Matthew McConaughey

Title:Greenlights
Author:Matthew McConaughey
Publisher/s:Headline/Jonathan Ball Publishers
Date of publication:2020
Star rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Jonathan Ball Publishers kindly sent me a copy of this memoir in exchange for an honest review.

“I never wrote things down to remember; I always wrote things down so I could forget.”

Where to begin with Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights? Well for one it’s more than just a simple memoir. There is far more to the southern man with the atypical good looks and a career that seems to have been sent straight from the gods. The man who grew up in East Texas studied law and only took up acting on a whim, is in fact a poet, a lover of bumper sticker philosophy, and a very talented writer to boot. In fact, I would be surprised if after reading McConaughey’s book, that you don’t begin to like him even more than you might do right now. He just has this way about him that makes you want to invite him to a barbecue, or just sit in your backyard and stare up at the stars. Matthew is cool like that.

So what is a ‘greenlight’ and why the title? Matthew describes them as :

“an affirmation of our way”, “a shoeless summer” and “in our lives…they’re approvals, support, praise, gifts, gas on our fire, attaboys, and appetites. They’re cash money, birth, springtime, health, success, joy, sustainability, innocence, and fresh starts… we love greenlights. They say yes and give us what we want.”

Throughout Matthew’s reflections on his fifty-odd years on planet Earth, there are snippets of a childhood spent with loving parents who bickered constantly, and two much older brothers who had both left home by the time Matthew was born. He won the title of Little Mr. Texas, and in high school, he was voted Most Handsome, and in his final year, he became an exchange student and spent time with a slightly eccentric family in Australia. He drove a truck and took girls on dates, all the while believing that one day he’d study law.

He went to the University of Texas where he did in fact study law for a little while, but in the back of his mind, he was considering film school. Discovering that he loved to write, Matthew eventually phoned his dad one day and told him that he was considering studying film, and his dad gave him the approval he so deeply desired.

At film school, he was the jock who liked to work behind the scenes on sets rather than attend classes, and he got away with it because he firmly believed in starting from the bottom. He was not afraid of hard work – as a young boy Matthew built a treehouse from scratch all by himself by stealing materials from a building site at night.

“Alright, alright, alright…”

All his hard work would pay off when, after joining a talent agency, the young man from Texas landed his first role as the eternally cool Wooderson in the 1993 teen film Dazed and Confused starring alongside a veritable plethora of up-and-coming actors of his generation – hey there, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Jason London, Milla Jovovich, and Rene Zellweger! Quite by accident the very first words that Matthew uttered on-screen would go on to become his eternal catchphrase.

He went on to do Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and almost botched his first day on the set of Scorpion Spring. He learned to be humble, he relearned his lines, and he spent years living in an Airstream trailer home. He traveled across Europe on a rented bike, and after doing A Time to Kill in 1996, fame led him to spend time in a monastery. Fame was an elusive and strange condition that Matthew struggled to come to terms with.

Matthew talks about his spirituality, and ‘wet dreams’ that became epiphanies – epiphanies that inspired him to travel to Africa and South America and take Ecstasy on the Amazon. He talks about the string of romantic comedies that made him a lot of money, and how the criticism never bothered him – he had money in the bank and he was goddamn grateful – to those who gave him a job and to God.

He shares the unending joy of getting to work on the sets of The Lincoln Lawyer, Interstellar, Magic Mike, and Contact, winning an Oscar for a little film called The Dallas Buyers Club and getting to work with his good friend Woody Harrelson on HBO’s True Detective. In the midst of all this success, he meets the love of his life, and he shares how his world changed inexplicably after he realized that he wanted to become a father.

Matthew McConaughey shares a lot, and sometimes not enough. It’s all on his terms, and it is a deep and personal journey that he takes us on. He is more than just an actor, and a member of the Hollywood elite. He is a man who cherishes family, has a deeply personal relationship with God, and is very much aware that we are more than just how we pay the bills and feed our families. Matthew is a surfer, an actor, a writer, a lover, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, and a really, really cool dude.

Greenlights is a casual and poetic memoir of one of Hollywood’s most talented, and sometimes underrated players, and his story is a trip you’ll want to return to again and again.

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