Book Reviews

Greenlights - Review

Matthew McConaughey's biography is an in-depth look at his success, failures, lessons and approach to living as authentic life as possible.

MARCH 12th, 2021


Author: Matthew McConaughey

© Headline Publishing


iographies. There is always a cemented structure to how they are formed. Founded on the baseline of the subject’s story, then branching off into the many successes and far greater failures experienced along the way; with each page the biographical illustration of the subject’s life is vividly told. However, not all are necessarily vivid, though most are somewhat self-centred. This isn’t an insult by any means, what is a biography if there isn’t an element of personal gratification? But rarely is there a biography which extends beyond the set framework, pushes against that cemented structure and tells a story of an individual with rich depth and humbled advice more than Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights.

“Alright, alright, alright”. Three words which have come to define the very image of Matthew McConaughey. This simplistic repetition has signified the Hollywood actor, yet his new biography proves they are but the surface of who McConaughey is and how he lives his vast and multifaceted life. Put simply, he has seen and done a lot more than create an iconic catchphrase.

Matthew McConaughey - © Vida-Alves-McConaughey

At the beginning of his book the actor makes one thing very clear, ‘This is not a traditional memoir,’ he writes. Yet he also confirms, ‘this is not an advice book either’. So, what is Greenlights? For the actor, they are the opportunity to “go – advance, carry on”. They sometimes come in amber or red, but through his skills, discipline, resilience and the recognition of ‘when a no might actually be a yes’ they can eventually turn green. It is what McConaughey describes as an “approach book”. And as you read on you discover what he means.

What becomes apparent is Greenlights isn’t just about how the lessons, experiences, challenges and successes of Matthew’s life shaped him, or if adapted, they can shape you. No, it is a book which provides an alternative route with examples to prove that for some they may work, yet there is never the promise that they are universal. Life is ultimately derided from you own personal approach, each one of us have our own unique path and what may work in helping pave it for one will fail for another.

As McConaughey describes his arrival onto the Hollywood mainstream, you begin understanding his concept. Dubbed the “saviour of the movies”, even though he admits he was unaware they needed “saving”, the actor is thrown into a crisis of identity. ‘What was real? What was not?’ he writes. ‘The sky just opened up to me and it was tough to feel the ground beneath my feet. My differential split, my spiritual foundation in flight, I needed gravity. It was time to bend my knee bone.’

That pursuit of ‘gravity’ came in the shape of The Monastery of Christ in the Desert and Brother Christian. Unloading his feelings of guilt and the demons on his mind Matthew strolled for hours with Brother Christian. In response the Spiritual healer hadn’t said a single word throughout the entire walk. Nothing. Until after a moment of silent reflection he whispered to the actor “Me, too”. McConaughey describes those words as ‘Sometimes we don’t need advice. Sometimes we just need to hear we’re not the only one.’

Matthew McConaughey - © Vida-Alves-McConaughey

A book about approaches. For Matthew McConaughey this distance from Hollywood, to find an environment to centre himself and regain gravity again came through two words. Not advice, but a simple admission that he wasn’t alone. For some that may not work, they may need an instruction of where to head next. Greenlights consistently highlights this notion of approaches differ, but they should still be pursued if not in trial and error.

Away from the more ethereal and deeper notions of Matthew McConaughey’s life, there are humbler and more hilarious reminisces. Through his brutal honesty and blunt Texan approach (there’s that word again) he paints a picture of a complex homelife grounded in love, discipline and humour. The actor grew up in the type of home where if you said you were running away in a temper; your parents would pack your bags for you. A childhood whereby when his brother refused to cut his hair when asked by his football coach and used Jesus’ appearance as an excuse, his father drove eight miles past his school, pulled over to the side of the road, pushed him out of the passenger door, and said, “Yeah, well, Jesus walked everywhere, too, boy!”

It was in many terms a stereotypical life. Though unlike many biographies of those who are bestowed fame and fortune, Greenlights isn’t sprinkled with the sense of relief that they escaped. If anything, McConaughey has seemingly strived to ensure those founding home comforts are as present now as they were when he was a boy. However, his approach is different, older with greater analysis.

There are many stories, too many to include here, and it would be a shame to ruin them by detailing each one without reading the book itself. Yet, whilst dissecting the construct of fame and fortune, Hollywood and homelife, there is never a moment where you are not hanging onto every word McConaughey writes. He does so with poise although grounded with that typical earthy Texan outlook. If anything, Greenlights is less of a biography and more reminiscent of the stories told by your elders sitting around a campfire at night. Some almost other worldly. Others, lessons to learn if you so choose to do so.

McConaughey says his famous catchphrase as he starred in 'Dazed and Confused' in 1993. - © Universal

Greenlights is a rare biography because it breaks every convention. Not only is the design of the book itself unique – evocative of a scrap book instead of a bounded and structured biography – but the content showcases the approaches which have worked and failed in the adventure that has been Matthew McConaughey’s life. There isn’t any regret, just lessons learnt. At the end of his “approach book” the actor sums up his fifty years of life reminding us that “alright, alright, alright” is not the end or beginning of who Matthew McConaughey is.

‘Our eulogy, our story, will be told by others and forever introduce us when we are gone.’ He writes. ‘The Soul Objective. Begin with the end in mind. What’s your story? This is mine so far.’

His book leaves you looking deeper, analysing kinder, approaching life braver. It inspires you to go out and live, and to catch as many Greenlights as possible when doing it.

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