Directed by: Harmony Korine
Written by: Harmony Korine
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dog, Isla Fisher, Jimmy Buffet, Zac Efron
Some stories get so ridiculous that I cannot help but just admire that a cast of individuals and creators would come together and make it. The Beach Bum certainly becomes one of those cases. During my viewing experience, I just sat back and continually stated “this is ridiculous,” and I think it adds to the dirty charm of the film.
The Florida legend Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) made his name as an acclaimed writer who now lives his life hanging around the Keys having sex with random women and consuming a copious amount of drugs. He loves his life but has to return home because of his daughter’s wedding. There he sees his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) and one his great friends Lingerie (Snoop Dog). After a tragic event, Moondog must begin taking his life seriously and write another book, which prompts him to go on many adventures of finding his inspiration and living the life he has always wanted.
At its heart, this film speaks on artistic inspiration and what drives people to strive for their passions. That lack of inspiration presents Moondog’s struggle and what his family members want from him. A person known for his eloquence via the pen continues throwing his life away through different pleasures. That runs through the entire film and while not fully fleshed out, it truly doesn’t matter because this film, once again, personifies ridiculousness. Every character that Moondog interacts with has their defining trait but they’re no more than just cameos within his journey. That includes Martin Lawrence, Jimmy Buffet, and Zac Effron. Each serves their purpose but do not really contribute to the overall story.
Everything centers on Matthew McConaughey, who becomes the life and blood of this entire film. If he fails to become somewhat endearing to the audience then that would leave this film as a disaster, but he absolutely owns the character of Moondog. He owned it so much that I’m convinced this film may be a documentary of what McConaughey does with his free time. A great example of the perfect pairing between a character and actor and in this case, it comes from the reputation and aura that McConaughey has had built around him. Everyone knows the famous “Alright, alright alright” quote from Dazed and Confused. McConaughey just has this legend around him that he just does what he wants and then shows up to film sets and performs well enough to win an Academy Award as he did for Dallas Buyer’s Club. I don’t think any other actor could be brought on to play this role and have it be as believable as McConaughey portraying Moondog. Simply perfect and he becomes the only reason why this film ever elevates above beyond being a mess.
A surprising performance with unexpected relevance to the story came from famous rapper, Snoop Dog. He portrays an actual character in the film and his presence benefitted the film. The interactions between him and Moondog really stand out and are a focal point in the latter’s development but the best supporting character to the story is undoubtedly Isla Fisher, who brought her A-game to this feature. Her character contrasts Moondog by being a bit more reserved. She can still have the tendencies to do wild stuff as evident when Moondog returns home, but she has the balance of accountability. She pushes the protagonist to get better and change along with really pushing the plot forward. Fisher brings the comedy and truly leaves a mark in the story.
With each feature, Harmony Korine proves to be one of those wild card filmmakers that just does what he wants and does not care. Creating a film like this could only be created because of the ensemble cast that was brought together, but to his credit, he utilized these characters well. Adding in all the cameo performances could have been distracting but because of the tone and pacing of the film, everyone was put to good use. The issues of this film lie on it being very messy in its storytelling. That may be the point of the film but I cannot forgive it for that reason alone. It’s very sloppy and the decisionmaking by Moondog at times makes no sense and his goals usually have no reasoning. The film really fumbles through what it attempts to achieve. It has all these structural issues, but the characters save it.
The Beach Bum will certainly not be for everyone and it would work best as seen as a stoner comedy, which becomes evident through its poster and plot description. Nothing in this film should be taken seriously and having this attitude ensures some enjoyment will be found with the film. A fun experience simply to see what shenanigans Moondog can get into knowing that everything will work out for him because the stakes are nonexistent. A breezy and delightful story with the most McConaughey role that Matthew McConaughey has ever done.