'The Beach Bum' - It feels good to be wrong [REVIEW]

The Beach Bum

There’s no greater joy than when you walk into a movie that you’re expecting to hate, only to discover that the trailers have been misleading you the whole time and that the film itself is actually pretty great. The Beach Bum, this one is for you.

From Spring Breakers director and Kids writer Harmony Korine, The Beach Bum is a new stoner dramedy starring Matthew McConaughey as, you guessed it, a beach bum.

It will come to no surprise to fans of Korine, who directed Spring Breakers in 2012 and wrote Kids all the way back in 1996, that The Beach Bum is largely about a man who’s trying to keep the party alive long after it’s ended for everyone else.

I mean, they go as far as to name McConaughey’s character Moondog, in case you need any evidence.

The Beach Bum
credit: YouTube

If you’ve ever run into Moondog, odds are that you found him with either a joint or a can of PBR in his hands. Actually, scratch that, it’s much more likely that you find him with both a joint AND a can of PBR in his hands. You’d probably be correct in assuming he’s on a number of other substances, too, and you’ll likely find a number of girls following him around wherever he goes.

Every now and then, though, you’ll find Moondog sitting on the beach with a typewriter in his lap, deep in thought.

While that might seem like a laughable kind of idea, Moondog is actually a successful poet. Yes, despite all the insane and immature habits, he’s published a series of- well-received novels in the past — and while his self-destructive behavior also gets in the way of ambition, Moondog assures his agent, Lewis (Jonah Hill), that he’s about to write his best work yet.

The good news for Moondog is that money isn’t an issue. He might not care about the way modern society works or how people perceive him, but he did marry a very rich woman named Minnie (Isla Fischer), and she’s willing to sponsor whatever kind of booze-cruise he wants to go on.

The Beach Bum
credit: YouTube

It’s somewhat of a weird relationship, mind you, given that both of them are pretty openly sexual with other people — Minnie with her husband’s best friend, Lingerie (Snoop Dog), and Moondog with literally anyone who offers. There’s no doubt, however, that they do care not only about each other, but also about their daughter, Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen).

That’s really all there is to The Beach Bum, too.

I mean, there’s a plot that kind of gets kicked into gear during the second half of the movie when Moondog is sent to rehab, meets Zac Efron and then spends the rest of the film evading the police, but the majority of The Beach Bum just features McConaughey bouncing around from place-to-place and getting himself involved in a variety of stoner-friendly adventures.

Of course, those who are familiar with Harmony Korine’s previous filmography know there’s going to be a lot more in the film’s subtext and that this movie will likely go to some dark and twisted places, but that’s also where The Beach Bum somewhat differs from where you might expect.

The Beach Bum
credit: YouTube

The whole time, we, as the audience, are constantly waiting for the shoe to drop. In previous films, Korine often likes to build up a character’s reckless behavior during the first half of the movie and then have them face the repercussions of it all during the second half when life hits them like a pile of bricks.

That realization never really comes to Moondog, though.

I mean, he is forced to live with some unforeseen circumstances in ways that I’m not going to spoil, but never really in the way you expect. Moondog never really changes as a person, experiences any kind of growth or is given any kind of character arch — he just is who he is throughout all of it, and unapologetically so.

That’s where both the beauty and the fun of The Beach Bum comes in. Instead of being a cautionary tale about drugs like The Wolf of Wall Street, or even a movie about a stoner who finds their purpose a la The Big Lebowski, this is a movie about a man who, quite literally, has everything he wants.

The Beach Bum
credit: YouTube

Whether you find that tragic or sad is really up to your own personal tastes, but there’s no denying the fact that Moondog is happy just being a bum. The movie, then, kind of becomes an ode to those who don’t necessarily dream to become great, because being a huge, successful celebrity isn’t for everyone. There are some people out there who just want to hang around a beach and get high, and Harmony Korine is here to not cast any kind of judgment on that.

All of that is demonstrated through a random handful of scenarios, some of which work better than others.

Jonah Hill, for example, doesn’t work in The Beach Bum as he’s doing this caricature of a caricature with a really bad accent, to the point where it feels like he’s in a different movie. Others, such as Fisher, Efron, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Buffett — who is, of course, playing Jimmy Buffett — fit into the movie quite nicely in that regard and have something to add.

The best of the supporting characters, however, is undoubtedly Martin Lawrence. There’s an argument to be made that his segment feels more like an SNL sketch or something that belongs in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which I honestly completely get. I’m not going to fight anyone if they were to say The Beach Bum has a problem keeping a steady tone throughout its 90-minute runtime.

The Beach Bum
credit: YouTube

That being said, and without spoiling anything here, Lawrence is funnier here than I’ve seen him be in a long, long time and his bit made me laugh harder than anything else in a theater has this year.

McConaughey is good in the movie, too, even if the performance can be a bit much at times (when we cut from him doing some kind of ridiculous stunt to trying to have a moment with his daughter, it doesn’t work).

In the end, The Beach Bum isn’t the groan-inducing, obnoxious stoner comedy I was afraid it was going to be. That’s all in there, sure, but I admire the way that Korine handles the characters in a subtle, but not completely empty way. Rather, it’s something that reminds me of The Florida Project’s Sean Baker and how we can make these beautiful tributes to lives that people might be afraid to try and relate to. It’s different from most of Korine’s pervious work, sure, but I’d say it’s a necessary step forward, too.

Watch the trailer for The Beach Bum here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie!

'The Beach Bum' - It feels good to be wrong [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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