The Beach Bum Review
Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers), The Beach Bum follows the extremely mellow Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) - a shaggy, carefree writer/poet living in the Florida Keys who spends most of his time drinking, smoking marijuana and sleeping with women.
Despite displaying a talent with words, Moondog lives off the fortune of his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher), so he often neglects his writing projects and spends most of his time relaxing and partying with friends. Moondog’s antics are interrupted as his daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen) is due to be married in Miami, so he returns to Minnie’s mansion for the wedding. As the two are reunited, we learn that Moondog and Minnie have a fairly unconventional marriage, in that both individuals sleep with and have various relationships with other people, yet both characters seem unphased by this and share a care-free life philosophy.
Despite the occurrence of a lifechanging incident at Heather’s wedding, Moondog continues to drift and dance through life and interacts with a series of intriguing personalities along the way. We meet Lingerie AKA Rie (Snoop Dog), an R&B singer and Minnie’s lover, Flicker (Zac Efron), a patient who befriends Moondog at a rehabilitation centre, and Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence), a dolphin tour guide who invites Moondog onto his boat for a particularly memorable dolphin spotting trip.
As far as the plot goes, that’s pretty much it. The movie saunters along in a similar manner to its main character, weird events occurring one after the other with no real significance. This lack of purpose and narrative structure may leave audiences wondering about the point of The Beach Bum. The film is labelled as a ‘stoner comedy’ but the funny scenes are few and far between and even at a manageable 95 minutes, the movie drags and feels surprisingly bland.
McConaughey suits the character of Moondog to a T and his performance is convincing throughout. But although the idea of Moondog - a carefree, pot smoking beach bum – is amusing at first, it does get rather tiresome quite quickly, especially when there is zero evidence of character development. Whatever happens, no matter what he destructs in his path, nothing phases the character and he doesn’t learn anything new from his life experiences. This is probably the whole point of the movie, but after a while it gets pretty boring.
None of the supporting characters are particularly likeable either which makes it rather difficult to stay engaged with the film. Who wants to watch a movie about a bunch of selfish wealthy people who have no care in the world about how their actions effect others? If any of the characters had some interesting depth, maybe this wouldn’t matter so much. But in reality it is very difficult to care about anyone in The Beach Bum, and the injections of comedy are not enough to distract from the fact that the characters are all awful people who most of us won’t be able to relate to.
Despite the unlikeable personalities and questionable narrative, there are several amusing scenes scattered throughout the movie’s 95 minutes. Efron’s Flicker is a bizarre character and brings some much-needed energy to the film and there is a hilarious sequence with Lawrence’s Captain Wack and a shark. The film is also very well shot - bursting with beautiful bright colours - and has a fantastic soundtrack by John Debney (who has an endless portfolio, but most recently worked on Dora and the Lost City of Gold). It leaves you feeling like you’ve taken a holiday and bathed under the Florida sun.
After watching The Beach Bum, you will either love or hate Moondog. Are we meant to admire him and his breezy attitude towards life? Or are we meant to despise the fact he lacks the ability to care that his actions have damaging consequences? One thing you can count on is that Moondog couldn't care less what you think.
The Beach Bum is released in the UK on 25th of October 2019