Movie Review: THE BEACH BUM (2019)

THE BEACH BUM is the latest film from Harmony Korine (Gummo, Spring Breakers) and follows a stoned poet named Moondog who lives life by his own set of rules. The film stars Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Snoop Dogg (Turbo), and Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers).

THE BEACH BUM follows the hilarious misadventures of Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), a rebellious rogue who always lives life by his own rules. With a penchant for alcohol and drugs, Moondog lives his life with no fucks given no matter what comes his way nor the consequences he must face. As he focuses on finishing his book of poetry, and his life begins to crash around him, he comes in contact with a colorful array of personalities that weave in and out of his life in an almost surreal mixture of fantasy and reality.

Let me start by saying I’m not the biggest Korine fan, though I have an appreciation for the film KIDS (as I feel like that’s a right of passage in the film work) and thought Spring Breakers was okay. Going into THE BEACH BUM, my expectations were pretty neutral because I honestly had no idea what to expect. With that said, I was shocked at how funny and relatable it was. On the surface, this film may not feel like there’s a storyline to follow, but I assure you there is, it just might not be the one you want. I thought about what this film was trying to tell me, I even went on a deep dive to see if my theories were correct, and through my research what I decided was it didn’t matter. Sure, it could be a commentary on society, white male privilege, and materialism, as well as how we treat those we deem “less” than us, but at the end of the day, this is just a fun movie that maybe doesn’t need to be dissected.

Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) and Lingerie (Snoop Dogg) in THE BEACH BUM | Photo Courtesy of NEON and VICE

Moondog is a character that is unfazed by everything – even when he loses the most precious thing in his life, it barely registers on his face. For someone like myself, who lives a life that is filled with appointments and responsibility, Moondog’s lifestyle is somewhat appealing. Spend all day smoking weed on the beach, not worrying about bills, and fucking whoever walks by? Hell yeah, that seems awesome! But when you really take the time to think about it, is it really that fulfilling? McConaughey does an incredible job portraying Moondog, so much so that I’m convinced he isn’t acting. When Moondog is finally forced to go to rehab he meets my favorite character in the film, Flicker, played by Zac Efron. Flicker is an energized trouble-maker dude-bro, outfitted in JNCO jeans with a ridiculous buzzed hairstyle that obsessively vapes while spouting Biblical scripture to smooth over his highly problematic behavior. There’s a scene in particular where Flicker and Moondog rock out to Creed (you know, the Christian rock band) that had me in stitches. This reminded me a lot of my upbringing in a Christian household and how it felt to be the black sheep of the family. If there is one critique I would give this movie it’s that I wish we had more screen time with Zac Efron because he absolutely kills it.

All the performances in the film are beyond fantastic with each character more bizarre than the next. It’s these eccentric performances that really drive the film because as a viewer you are either on-board with these ridiculous antics or not. Luckily for me, and my boyfriend who came with me to the screening, we were 100% here for it. There are a few moments within the film that make you wonder if it’s going to take a hard left turn and become incredibly dark, but writer/director Harmony Korine never goes to that place, which in a way was kind of refreshing. Relying on neon colors and sharp cinematography from Benoît Debie, Harmony crafts a light-hearted story which barely touches upon the more turbulent themes in the movie (such as alcoholism, death, grief, addiction) while simultaneously never shying away from them, allowing them to be always present in the background.

Regardless of how people interpret the film, I still found it to be one of the best of the year. THE BEACH BUM isn’t made for everyone and that’s okay, a lot of people will struggle with the point of the film which, ironically, I kind of think is the point of the film. All I know is that I haven’t laughed as hard as I have during a movie in a long time and I can’t wait for more people to get this movie in their eyeballs. It’s rare for me to want to immediately re-watch a film, but I can’t wait to get stoned and re-watch THE BEACH BUM because I know it’s only going to tremendously elevate the already psychedelic viewing experience. So with that said, kick back, let all your troubles slide away, and prepare for an experience when THE BEACH BUM is released in theaters on March 29, 2019.   

Shannon McGrew
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