Monday, February 10, 2014

True Detective

Tonight, you might be watching the Oscars; B and I will be watching this show. Yes, I know we could tape it or watch it On Demand tomorrow, but I can't wait to watch. I wanna throw a pair of three year-olds in bed and run downstairs to watch this. 

If you haven't seen this, get On Demand and binge, now. I'll wait for you. 

First, a confession. Although I've always thought Matthew McConaughey was a beautiful man, I also thought of him as more celebrity than actor. Part of this is due to his penchant for starring in mediocre to bad romantic comedies. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind an actor making a living in rom coms; everyone's got to eat. Just don't expect me to respect you. Especially if you don't rise above the bad scripts that are the source of most modern romantic comedies. 

My disdain for McConaughey had another root, however. See below. 

It doesn't help that for years I have detested Woody Harrelson. 

This show has radically altered my opinion of both men. 

This season of True Detective focuses on two Louisiana detectives. McConaughey plays the extremely damaged Rust Cohle while Harrelson plays his reluctant partner, Marty Hart. They've just become partners when they pick up a case that makes an impression on both of them. They seem to solve it, but years later, Cohle receives information that leads him to believe that more perps were involved, and more women and children are being murdered. He resumes his investigation, despite opposition from everyone, including Hart. Meanwhile, Hart's life is falling apart because of his self-destructive habits. 

There are a number of elements that elevates this far beyond your average procedural. There's the cinematography, lovingly directed by Carey Fukunaga. The six minute single take scene in which Rust and his hostage navigate a race riot in the projects to Marty's car is justifiably famous, but Fukunaga adds a movie-like quality, making the Louisiana bayous not just the setting but another character. 

The scripts by creator Nic Pizzolatto are fantastic. The lines he gives Rust are nothing short of brilliant. Here's an excellent example:

Rust Cohle: I know who I am. And after all these years, there's a victory in that.

And another:

Rust Cohle: I think about my daughter now, and what she was spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. The doctor said she didn't feel a thing; went straight into a coma. Then, somewhere in that blackness, she slipped off into another deeper kind. Isn't that a beautiful way to go out, painlessly as a happy child? Trouble with dying later is you've already grown up. The damage is done, it's too late.

And last:

Marty Hart: Can you imagine if people didn't believe, what things they'd get up to? 
Rust  Cohle: Exact same thing they do now, just out in the open. 
Marty Hart: Bull... shit. It'd be a fucking freak show of murder and debauchery, and you know it. 
Rust Cohle: If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then, brother, that person is a piece of shit, and I'd like to get as many of them out in the open as possible.

But enough of that. What really separates this show is the caliber of acting. And it is indeed top-notch. McConaughey, still skinny from playing an AIDS-inflicted man in his Oscar-nominated role in Dallas Buyers Club, plays Cohle in three different time periods: 1995, 2002, and 2012. Each version is different. In 1995, Cohle is tightly controlled, his arms held close to his body, distant from the world around him. Seven years later, he's looser, more involved and affected by events. By 2012, he's a shell of a man, burned out. Each iteration is distinctly drawn and cannot be confused with the others. I hope McConaughey has cleared room on his mantle for an Emmy. 

I don't want to leave out Harrelson, either. McConaughey's is the tour-de-force performance, but the role is also written that way. Harrelson's character is a self-righteous jerk who has difficulty adhering to what he believes are the ways all men should behave. So, he cheats on his wife, beats up his mistress's one-night stand, and and treats the women in the life as set pieces. At times he seems genuinely remorseful, but also completely unable to change. 

Tonight we find out whether Rust or Marty are involved in the killings that have afflicted Louisiana. I really hope neither is,especially Rust. Even with his many flaws, I think that Rust might be one of the most decent men on television. But if he is, I suspect it will be a delight to explore. 

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