Film Reviews

The Beach Bum review: Dir. Harmony Korine (2019)

Harmony Korine, the man behind the likes of Spring Breakers (My review) and Gummo, always delivers an undoubtedly unique stylistic to his film making, which usually revels and delights in the spinning, hedonistic spirals of unique lives and I’m oddly content to say that The Beach Bum is, of course, as bizarre and neon-tinged as you’d imagine.

While it’s almost certain to be one of those ‘love it or hate it’ films, Korine’s escapism offers an insight unlike any other at this level of film-making. Neon lights scattering the sun-kissed Florida settings, alongside wild parties, fun-loving girls and boys, excessive money and drugs and yet, somehow, this brutal honesty is just a representation of who these people are that we meet, they love their lives and the whole adventure cruises along with a small plastic bag of dry humour.

So, The Beach Bum is Matthew McConaughey’s Moondog, a rebellious, mischievous soul who’s taking each day however he wants to. Complete with beard, sunglasses and a group of friends who live on the edge, and beyond, of the law, this is McConaughey letting loose and enjoying every moment. If you can picture his Dazed and Confused character Wooderson and imagine he’s gone on like that forever, but moved into continuous weed-intake, the world of slam poetry and pure, sun-drowned recklessness. While we do have a minor look, later on, to a version of his character who was once less, drug-induced, those two characters have the same energy.

But, oddly, Moondog is also a talented one, with self-published books of poetry and super rich wife Minnie (exquisitely portrayed by Isla Fisher), he’s got a lot of support, pushing him on and encouraging him to reduce the alcohol intake and put his talents to the thing they believe he can all do: Write the next best great American novel and will he, well, you’ll have to come along on the ride to find out.

As a package, The Beach Bum is generally just Moondog partying along without many consequences, there is his daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen) who questions his lifestyle, asking “Dad, what is wrong with you?” after he destroys his own house, but he doesn’t take it too seriously and before long he’s back to his old ways after tragedy strikes his life. It’s an odd journey, that much is for sure, but it also makes you smile in the most unusual places and there’s moments when you wouldn’t mind being a part of the party, even if you know it’s wrong.

Joining him in the morally and ethically-questionable chaos is the likes of Snoop Dogg – complete with secretly-imported special weed -, legendary musician Jimmy Buffet, Jonah Hill as his unusual agent and Martin Lawrence as Dolphin tour guide Captain Wacker, who puts on shifty tours for tourists. There’s also a fired up Zac Efron, who he meets in rehab, but it’s not long before they both escape to reek more havoc on the world and just when you think reality might creep back into Moondog’s world, it just doesn’t.

Alongside another top notch soundtrack, including an inspired use of Van Morrison‘s Into the Mystic, The Beach Bum is a subversive, oddly enjoyable slice of madness. While it definitely suffers from extreme self-indulgence, you kind of find yourself taken in by McConaughey’s performance and you can’t help but be a little swayed by his self-proclaimed freedom. So, with Moondog in mind, one of his quotes sums it all up and keeps it uncomplicated: “I like to have fun man. Fuck it, we’re here to have a good time, I’m here to have a good time.”

Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum – It’s in select cinemas now and comes to digital download on 30 October.


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