Does reading articles like, ‘The Top 7 Habits of Highly Successful People’ set your teeth on edge? If so, avoid Greenlights, McConaughtey’s “love letter. To Life.”
On the other hand, if you have any interest in acting as a career, Hollywood anecdotes, or are a McConaughey fan, then you’ll enjoy this part memoir, part scrapbook, part self-help book from the hugely successful actor.
He has devised a very simple traffic light-inspired system to help him navigate his way in the world. A red or yellow light represents situations that are challenging, frustrating, and in general, times when things are just not going his way. The eponymous greenlights however are signals that everything is on the up. They represent those times that the universe is providing everything he needs and McConaughey is on the right – and more specifically, his right – track.
[Pictured above l-r: McConaughey as Detective Rustin “Rust” Cohle in True Detective (2014), with Kate Hudson in rom-com How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), as Jake Tyler Brigance in A Time to Kill (1996), and in his breakout role as David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused (1993).
The first thing you learn about McConaughey is that his parents were “twice divorced and thrice married, to each other.” The second is that they were disciplinarians and he and his brothers were no strangers to an “ass whupping”. This sets the tone for everything that follows and probably explains McConaughey’s often larger-than-life approach.
His family support afforded him a great start in life and instilled strong values that he prides himself on maintaining to this day. In fact, he often connects times when he encountered yellow- or redlights to times when he turned his back on his core values. He comes across as very driven, determined, and confident. In fact, you’d be exhausted reading about him, to be honest!
He recounts his lucky break in Hollywood, his defining relationship with his father, his spontaneous travels around Europe and to Timbucktu, living the high and easy life as Hollywood’s go-to rom-com guy, meeting his now-wife Camila, and becoming a father. He ticks off the greenlights, yellowlights, and redlights he encountered along the way. All recounted with just enough personal information to feel as though he is really opening up, albeit in a no-doubt heavily edited and lovely flowing narrative sort of way.
The most interesting part of his story is when he makes the decision to start turning down the ‘easy’ work. He’s had enough of the rom-com roles and wants a challenge. This risky move eventually paid off (after almost two years) and led to his memorable and Oscar-winning role in Dallas Buyers Club, the dramatic biography of an AIDS patient who makes a business smuggling drugs for treatment into Texas. He followed this quickly with his portrayal of a flawed detective in the HBO series True Detective. Two massive greenlights.
The key to happiness, McConaughey implies, is recognising that you have the power to influence and ultimately to change a yellow or red light to a greenlight. The power of positivity message strikes again! If you’re looking for an inspirational life-changing self-help book, this probably won’t do the trick. It can be difficult to stomach all the just-trust-your-gut advice from a guy who seems to have led a pretty charmed life.
The guy was born good-looking, grew up popular, was voted Most Handsome in high school, his brother became a multi-millionaire in his mid-20s (which most have provided some financial peace of mind), and by his late 20s was in a position to drop everything and head off for a three-week journey on the Amazon River simply because he had a dream about it. It’s fair to say his life is not reflective of the everyman, or woman.
Despite all that, he does seem to be a grafter with a great attitude and – in a shocking lapse of Irishness- who am I to begrudge the man that?