You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Zoom

McConaughey: Best star in a supporting role

Matthew McConaughey in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Paramount Pictures

Matthew McConaughey in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

If 2013 belonged to any one person at the movies, it was Matthew McConaughey. First there was “Mud” (where did that come from?). Then there was “Dallas Buyers Club” (how did he lose all that weight?). Capping things off was “The Wolf of Wall Street” (why did that character have to disappear?). McConaughey’s bravura cameo is the best thing in the movie: idiosyncratic, compelling, utterly assured.

The star of “Wolf” is, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the lupine title character. Yet McConaughey’s just as big a star as Leo is, though he has only a few minutes of screen time. That’s part of the kick of seeing him onscreen. An entrée seems even tastier offered as a bite-size portion.

Continue reading below

McConaughey’s performance is just the latest example of a relatively recent Hollywood category. Call it best star in a supporting role. It started back in the ’80s, when Jack Nicholson won the supporting actor Oscar for “Terms of Endearment.” A few years later, Michael Caine won for “Hannah and Her Sisters,” then Sean Connery for “The Untouchables.” Subsequent movie stars to win in that category include Gene Hackman, for “Unforgiven,” George Clooney, for “Syriana,” and Christian Bale, for “The Fighter.” Oh, and actresses, too: Don’t forget Cate Blanchett’s supporting actress Oscar, for “The Aviator.”

Last year had a bunch of stars in supporting roles: Harrison Ford, in “42,” seemingly half the cast of “The Butler,” Clooney (sort of), in “Gravity,” Jeremy Renner and Robert De Niro, in “American Hustle.” But none of them gets to do what McConaughey does in “Wolf”: offer wise counsel, beat his chest (literally), hum, and order enough martinis with an aplomb not seen onscreen since the heyday of the “Thin Man” series. He also discusses the vocational virtues of (let us say) self-intimacy. Maybe it’s just as well McConaughey has such limited screen time. Otherwise, he might have been expected to show as well as tell.

MARK FEENEY

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.