‘The Beach Bum’ is a Sharp Stick Satire by Harmony Korine

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CHICAGO – The beach life is the paradise that most Americans aspire to, and either get it when they’re not ready or when they’re too old. The off-kilter director Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers) presupposes all of the life through Matthew McConaughey, in an incredible tour de farce called, appropriately, “The Beach Bum.”

Most people believe that this is how McConaughey actually lives (or lived) this life, so with perfect casting energy Korine lets the “all right all right all right” guy take the beach ball and run with it. He completes the casting with Snoop Dog (natch), Jimmy Buffett (natch) and Isla Fisher (sort of doing her “Wedding Crashers” character), plus Zach Efron, Jonah Hill and Martin Lawrence (yes, THE Martin Lawrence) playing against expectations. Like Korine’s previous films, it goes to some dark places, but that is part of the reality of living like a beach bum. The McConaughey character is a sociopath, but that is part of the “fun.”

Moondog (Matthew M) is living the dream of the Florida beach life in Key West and Miami, and is a substance/moral abuser of that dream. He is a published poet, but his real muse is the money his wealthy wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) provides for his lifestyle. When his daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen) is getting married, for example, Moondog is late because he’s schtupping a woman he picked up at a bar.

Poetry Man: Matthew McConaughey is Moondog in ‘The Beach Bum’
Photo credit: Neon

These lifestyle choices catch up with him when Minnie dies in an auto accident, in part caused by Moondog being blitzed out. Her will specifically stipulates he is cut off from funds until he completes another poetry book. His friends Lingerie (Snoop Dogg), Lewis (Jonah Hill) and Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence) can’t help him, nor can a fellow traveler named Flicker (Zac Efron) he meets in rehab. This beach bum is going to have to do it on his own.

The film is episodic, following Moondog from adventure to adventure, often leaving a trail of broken liquor bottles and smell of cannabis in the air. The ‘Dog is rarely sober, and Korine was not afraid to show the result of those dark passages, like a living embodiment of the song “Rehab.” But McCounaughey is a charmer in the role, and plays it to the hilt, which meets pretty much everyone’s expectation.

The supporting cast touches all the bases. Jonah HIll has a ball as Moondog’s fey agent, playing the character as if he constantly smells a fart. Zach Efron gets to do the cruelest scene in the film, and as an actor who desires to play more character types he makes his case. The best is Martin Lawrence, as the yammering Captain Wack, who promotes his boat charters as if it’s a cruise to heaven. Korine and Lawrence made great decisions about the character, and he’s as memorable as Moondog. And well, Jimmy Buffett needs no explanation, hahaha.

Hi Hi Hi: Moondog Hangs with Lingerie (Snoop Dogg) in ‘The Beach Bum’
Photo credit: Neon

It’s a bit hazy as to the Korine’s storyteller attitude toward Moondog. There is the old saying that God looks out for drunks and fools, which seems to be the overriding theme of “The Beach Bum,” but basically I think Korine is sharply making fun of the whole beach bum conceit. Even in the sense of “be careful what you wish for you might get it,” Moondog takes it a step beyond, gratefully. He even outdoes his fellow symbol of party leisure, the legendary Snoop Dogg … who still can’t act, by the way, but why does he need to?

In many ways, Harmony Korine is giving Matthew M the opportunity to take his first stoner “bum” – Wooderson from 1993’s “Dazed and Confused” – and bring him full circle to Moondog. To paraphrase one of McCounaughey’s famous lines from “D&C,” we keep getting older, but he stays the same age. All right, etc.

“The Beach Bum” opens everywhere on March 29th. Featuring Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dog, Isla Fisher, Zach Efron, Jonah Hill, Martin Lawrence, Stefania LaVie Owen and Jimmy Buffett. Written and directed by Harmony Korine. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2019 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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