Summer Comes Early With The Beach Bum
5 long years after Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine returns to officially enter the mainstream with his irreverent stoner comedy, The Beach Bum, an ode to excess that takes Matthew McConaughey to glorious new extremes and invites you to party like it’s 1999. With a candy-colored aesthetic full of neon light and psychedelic beach wear, The Beach Bum takes you on a wild hedonist voyage that only Korine can conjure.
The film follows the hilarious misadventures of Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), a rebellious rogue and stoned out poet who always lives life by his own rules. In a twist of fate, Moondog is cast out of his well-to-do lifestyle and onto the streets until he writes his next great book of poems.
Just as his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee informed his earlier, more gritty works of outsider art, Florida continues to inspire Korine to take his idiosyncratic tendencies to the nauseatingly colorful tropics where his particular brand of mischief feels right at home. Korine told Indiewire’s Eric Kohn, “I love the fuckery of this place. It’s super twitchy. I like what goes on in Florida. In South Florida, the more rachet, the better. It’s the cosmic runoff for the rest of the state. For me, it’s perfect.” The symbiosis between Korine and the state are certainly undeniable, and it continues to expand his reach. Make no mistake, Spring Breakers was only a gateway drug, The Beach Bum is a permanent high.
The film is captured in that loose, catch-what-you-can way that’s become Korine’s hallmark since his debut, Gummo, creating a mood board poem that is more about character, atmosphere, and style than it is about telling a story in the traditional sense. Similar to Spring Breakers, The Beach Bum is successfully evocative and has a sense of musicality to its arrangement. If Spring Breakers was the dark and menacing pop banger, then The Beach Bum is a slyly poetic yacht-rock anthem that gives the burnt out and directionless stoner manchild a sense of authentic soul. It may be heavily lathered in a thick haze of pot smoke and hedonistic behavior, but there are pockets and bubbles of clarity that waft moments of poetry and beauty over the viewer as intoxicating as the pot Moondog indulges throughout.
The film is a bit more unfocused than previous Korine films, which may serve as a strain for general moviegoers, but its meandering bumble is justified because it mirrors Moondog’s philosophy on life. Plus, what it lacks in focus, it more than makes up for in swagger and charm, of which it has oodles, making the whole experience so infectiously joyful that it’s hard not to succumb to its tomfoolery. If you can roll with its lighthearted and carefree wandering, you will be rewarded with an absurd trip full of loveably zany characters, bong rips, PBR tall boys, and senseless nudity.
Matthew McConaughey is absolutely terrific in the the lead role, and Korine does for him what he did for Val Kilmer in his short The Fourth Dimension, bending his persona until you can’t really tell where the character stops and he begins. Without a doubt, McConaughey was born to play this role, and he embodies Moondog on a cellular level, not only making Moondog a tangible reality but one that audiences can attach themselves to. Although, Moondog’s debaucherous charm won’t likely be enough for some, and it’s very possible that most moviegoers will get caught up in the wrong aspects or misread the film entirely.
Like most of Korine’s work, The Beach Bum is going to be very divisive, and it will undoubtedly unnerve and enrage some viewers. Many will take issue with the film’s total lack of political correctness, whether it be its absence of consequences or its objectification of women, but Moondog would just laugh in the face of all those valid criticisms, just like he does most anything else. And there’s something beautiful and admirable about that. In fact, we all could stand to be a little like Moondog; a little more free-spirited and a little less serious, a little bit inflated by our own ego and a little more “reverse paranoiac.” We should all strive to see the positive, we should all believe that the world is conspiring to make us happy.
Overall, it’s a very brisk and evenly paced wackadoodle voyage that never gets stale thanks to its revolving door of colorful Floridians, which includes the likes of Snoop Dog, Martin Lawrence, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, and Jonah Hill, all of whom embrace their roles “with arms wide open.” The sun is shining, the water is warm, and The Beach Bum is blessed up in ways that shine big. It may not have the gags that fuel a Cheech and Chong vehicle, but it evokes the same feeling of joy, and it delivers on the laughs. The half baked, no fucks given attitude completely work to its advantage, crescendoing in a fiery display so gnarly you’d think it’s a piece of ole Moondog’s clothing.
Recommendation: For fans of Korine and McConaughey, this is an absolute must, and for those that are uninitiated to Korine’s loose, idiosyncratic antics, this is the perfect point to make your entry. Don’t miss out on the party!
Rating: 4.5 PRB tall boys outta 5.
What do you think? Were you enamored by The Beach Bum? Was it more kitsch fare from Korine? Has McConaughey fully blossomed here? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!