Review - 'The Beach Bum'
It’s been a while since I waffled back and forth about whether I liked a movie or not. The Beach Bum is the next movie to really make me question whether or not it was good. Watching Harmony Korine’s latest is such a conflicting experience that I felt dirty watching but at the same time was consistently entertained by.
The Beach Bum sees the return of Matthew McConaughey to his tried-and-true wheelhouse of playing a pot-smoking, easy-going dead-beat. Here he plays a care-free bum who goes by the Moniker of “Moondog” and who sluffs off a slew of events that would normally be life-changing to most people.
Korine, who I mainly know as the writer behind the equally strange Springbreakers directs The Beach Bum with reckless abandon. This is a film made up mostly of drug-induced antics that are only loosely connected by Moondog stumbling in from one to the other, taking drugs and then bouncing off of everyone in the room. The loose framework of a story works only because it reflects who the main character is and how he reacts to life in general. However, I never got the sense that the movie was actually about anything, it tries to explain its message at the end but it’s too-little-too-late and feels disingenuous.
I also felt gross watching this movie, it’s not a pleasant experience. I’m sure this Korine’s intention, but I don’t generally like walking out of a movie feeling like I need to take a shower. There’s a lot of raunchiness on display, unnecessary nudity, waaaay too much drugs…in fact, I don’t think there’s a single sober moment throughout, and on top of that, all of the characters are detestable or just short of it. Again, that’s what this film is trying to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s a comfortable experience.
Oddly though, despite everything, this film sort of won me over in the end, and that’s because of Matthew McConaughey and all of the insane characters he is constantly interacting with. This is a truly method performance from McConaughey, he is completely dialed in to this drugged-up bum of a man who could not care less what people think of him and doesn’t shy away from doing the most insane thing you could do in every dilemma he finds himself in. There’s also a slew of great supporting characters. Isla Fisher, who plays Moondog’s wife, Mindie. She strangely compliments Moondog’s sensibilities and their relationship is equal parts detestable and endearing. I can’t explain it, but it works. Snoop Dogg plays Lingerie, a man Mindie is having an open affair with. His matter-of-fact point of view and observations on everything is hilarious. Zac Effron turns in some of the best work of his career in a brief but memorable performance as a troubled young man stuck in the 90’s named Flicker. Martin Lawrence also gets a brief, stand-out performance as Captain Wack, a boat tour guide who is obsessed with Dolphins. Yes, you heard that right.
The way the film is shot is also interesting. Just like the characters, the film is shot through what I can only describe as a drug-fueled stupor. The camera seemed drunk and stoned, but never in a way that felt completely incoherent. It’s a look and feel that Korine commits to 100-percent and you will know from the first frame whether or not this film will be for you.
The Beach Bum is likely a film that few-and-far between will actually find enjoyable. It features unlikable characters doing unlikable things, and tries to be about something in the end, but ultimately, is not about anything in particular. Somehow the movie comes out on the other end of all this as being an experience that I was glad to take part in. I don’t recommend The Beach Bum to the average movie-goer, but I guarantee if you do decide to watch this film, you will come away thinking: “Wow, I haven’t seen something like that before.” Take that for what it’s worth.