Matthew McConaughey's 'Serenity' Is So Insane That No Headline Can Begin To Do It Justice
I have a theory about Matthew McConaughey, and it is this: I think he walked on stage to accept his Oscar in 2014, and he has not stopped talking since. Sure, the musical director cued the band and Matthew left the stage, but the speech-one meandering monologue about self and God and creativity-has continued, uninterrupted, for five years and counting.
Further, I believe that his work since then-Interstellar, those car commercials, every talk show appearance-has been the result of filmmakers and fellow actors just rolling with it. They don’t go to McConaughey’s agents with scripts or pitches anymore, they just approach him directly, build a set around him, and hope for the best. Sometimes you get a True Detective, sometimes you get a series of industrial workplace safety videos, but you always get an extended mumble about the nature of existence and at least three clear and vivid butt shots. That’s a Matthew McConaughey guarantee, alright, alright, alright.
The latest gang to take the McConaughey Challenge includes Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou, and writer/director Steven Knight. The result is Serenity, and Serenity is fucking crazy. I would say “spoiler alert” here, but the movie pretty much comes at you pre-spoiled: We open on a shot of a child’s face, and then zoom way into his left eye, wherein lies a placid blue sea, a fishing boat called Serenity, and a sun-damaged Matthew McConaughey making zero sense. Right from the beginning, you know that Things Are Not What They Seem, all that remains to be determined is How and Whether You Will Care. When one of the tourists who have rented his boat gets a tug on his fishing line, Matthew McConaughey (whose name in this movie is Baker Dill, but in every other way he is Matthew McConaughey) grabs the rod from him. “I paid you $700 cash for this,” the tourist protests, but to no avail. McConaughey is determined to reel in this fish-a big old tuna he calls “Justice”-once and for all. No dice on this try; Justice gets away, and the guy who just said he has already paid $700 cash says “If you think I’m paying you one cent for this, you’re out of your mind.” So right away, you learn two things: Matthew McConaughey is on a mission, and the production company did not splash out on extravagances like a script supervisor.
Matthew McConaughey has a Matthew McConakid somewhere out in the world, and sometimes when he’s underwater, he and the boy can sort of communicate telepathically. Matthew McConaughey went off to war when the kid was young, and when he came back everything was different, and the kid’s mom had taken up with a violent guy. So he came here, to Plymouth Island, one of these island paradises where people talk about Miami a lot, but the steering wheel is on the other side of the car, and there’s a very folksy local radio station where the DJ seems to be talking just to him, and you’re like: yes, I get it, Matthew McConaughey, you’re dead, get those pants off already.
He does. Occasionally, Matthew McConaughey goes over to Diane Lane’s house to have sex with her, after which she pays him. He does not appear to have this arrangement with anyone else, and there is no world, even in the realm of fantasy, where Diane Lane pays anyone for sex, but then you realise that when he’s fucking he’s not talking, and it hits you that she’s paying for silence, and it is worth it. Oh and sometimes she’s looking for her cat, and sometimes he finds her cat, and the idea that this is going to become significant later in the movie feels like a threat.
Also, Matthew McConaughey is being pursued by a man in a suit with a briefcase who is always just a few seconds late. He even says it: “I am always just a few seconds late,” just in case you’re wondering whether it’s significant that he’s always just a few seconds late. The island folk call him “The Skinny Man,” even though he is just sort of regular, and if you’re wondering why it’s significant that he’s always just a few seconds late, congratulations, you’ve thought about this movie more than anyone involved in its production. He is played by Jeremy Strong, and the overall effect is “Steve Mnuchin in the eventual Reelz Channel original movie about the Trump administration.”
So then Anne Hathaway shows up in a blond wig, but you can totally tell it’s her. She is a mysterious gal out of a completely different movie, and you figure out she's his ex-wife before he does. She tells him their kid has become a recluse who plays on his computer all day, and oh by the way, she’d like him to kill her abusive husband. The abusive husband is played by Jason Clarke, who heard about subtlety once and was like “No, thank you.” The whole thing is very Double Indemnity, if Fred MacMurray did mushrooms and kept showing you his beautiful ass.
Matthew McConaughey thinks about killing Jason Clarke, but everyone else on Plymouth Island seems to be there to talk him out of it. “Get The Beast instead,” says everyone, because the big tuna is now called “The Beast” instead of “Justice.” Jason Clarke tells him his stepson plays on his computer all the time, and he once asked him why, and the kid said “It’s what I do so I don’t kill you.” Also, when he’s not playing at the computer, the kid stares at a photo of himself and Matthew McConaughey, then turns it over and it says “ME AND DAD BACK THEN,” and I sigh so heavily the movie screen ripples.
So of course Matthew McConaughey died in the war, and the whole thing-Baker Dill, the boat, the big beast justice tuna, Plymouth Island, the cat, the skinny man who isn’t-turns out to be part of a big game the McConakid has designed on his computer. He’s making and playing a game so he doesn’t stab his stepdad, even though stabbing his stepdad seems like a good idea for everyone, and he’s designed a world where he can communicate with his dead father and his dead father will also have distracting lifelong busywork in the form of this elusive tuna. But then the kid re-codes the game and has Matthew McConaughey kill his dad, which he does, which then the kid does in real life, and immediately gets off on self-defence and everyone lives happily ever after, so you kind of have to wonder why he went to all the computer trouble.
You might also wonder why all the other townsfolk were so against Matthew McConaughey killing Jason Clarke, or whether they have missions of their own, or why Jeremy Strong turns out to be a personification of “The Rules,” or why it was significant that he was always a few seconds late, or why a kid would design a game which would allow him to watch his father fucking Diane Lane for money, or whether Matthew McConaughey’s actual consciousness lives on within this computer simulation, or whether this is all just a complicated way for a grieving child to engage with the memory of his father. I would urge you not to wonder too hard, because you are not going to find out. But please join me in congratulating “It was all a computer simulation” for having beaten “it was all an autistic child’s dream” and “it was all a deathbed hallucination” as America’s Hottest Lazy Way To Pull The Rug Out From Under An Audience.
As a movie, I did not love it, but as a reminder to get high and do some squats, I found it useful. As a way for Matthew McConaughey to monetise his ongoing soliloquy about the mystery of consciousness, Serenity is quite simply a work of genius. He’s going to be doing this anyway, might as well bring some cameras and Djimon Hounsou.
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