The Beach Bum is an exhilarating ride sans destination. Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers, Gummo) writes and directs a story detailing the life of a poet more interested in having fun and living freely than in focusing on his craft.
We encounter Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) mumbling to himself in a drunken stupor while walking down the boardwalk in Key West, Florida. Throughout the film, we are treated to many different adventures with Moondog, beginning at his daughter’s (Stefania LaVie Owen) wedding where he sees his wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), making out with his friend Lingerie (Snoop Dogg). Moondog then goes to a bar where his wife picks him up, and on their way back home, they involved in a fatal car accident, killing Minnie. This tragic event sets everything in motion for the rest of the film as Moondog cannot access Minnie’s inheritance until he completes his next anthology. Moondog then gets into hijinks with his agent Lewis (Jonah Hill), Flicker (Zac Efron), Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence), and even Jimmy Buffett.
Even after all the fun, nonsense, and debauchery, the story seems to lack fulfillment with Moondog lacking arc. In his films, Korine likes to drop the viewer into a random part of the world to follow interesting figures around during entertaining periods in their lives. This film is no different. Although it has enjoyable and comedic moments, it really doesn’t feel like characters learn much of anything, and it seems that Moondog has an odd influence on others that may not be positive. This seems like the role that Matthew McConaughey was born to play, and he knocks it out of the park. With such a diverse cast, each interaction is legitimate and natural.
Masterful cinematography is on display during the scenes leading up to the disastrous car accident, with shots of Moondog and Minnie dancing on the boardwalk cut among shots of them driving recklessly as well shots of them from earlier scenes in the film. This portrays how their relationship could be equally loving and compassionate as dangerous and toxic.
The way Korine tells his stories could be off-putting to some movie goers because it may feel like a smattering of different scenes that the viewer must try to piece together. Being dropped in the middle of the life of an interesting character doesn’t always mean you’ll latch on and understand everything that is going on. But as it pertains to Moondog, it is easy to feel for him, a likeable and endearing character in a world inundated with alcoholism and rampant drug use. Moondog is relatable in attempting to “live the dream” in one way or another while having no responsibility, doing what he wants, and having fun.
The Beach Bum is a movie for you to turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride. The film has an all-star cast, great cinematography, and genuine laughs.
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