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The Beach Bum – Movie Review

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The Beach Bum – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

When The Beach Bum begins, it seems almost aimless as it follows Matthew McConaughey’s drug-addled poet Moondog through his boardwalk adventures in Miami. Who is this strange character? Why does Harmony Korine think he’s interesting? Eventually, one starts to get into the groove of the movie as he hops between various oddball strangers and tries to put his life in order. As a result, this becomes a strangely endearing and funny picture. While Korine’s previous film Spring Breakers took an almost critical look at the Florida scene, in contrast, The Beach Bum is a celebration of the people residing in that tropical state.

McConaughey seems to enjoy playing a lead character who doesn’t have a set direction in life. While Korine gives Moondog obstacles to overcome, he takes such a leisurely approach in how he attempts to complete his book of poetry. He is not necessarily a good person and he continually disrupts the life of his wife and daughter and yet McConaughey shows someone trying his honest best. Korine also surrounds Moondog with a memorable set of side characters. Snoop Dog plays someone probably not too far removed from his own personality and he brings a certain comedic charm to the role. Isla Fisher just sort of exists in a drunken state, which shows why these two were perfect for each other. Meanwhile, Stefania Owen is the voice of reason as Moondog’s daughter and yet Korine avoids writing her in a stereotypical manner.

Korine litters the film with quick appearances from actors arriving with their own wild interpretations of their characters. They come in, perform a bit with McConaughey and then go on their way. Jonah Hill gives the most unusual performance as a literary agent who sounds like a plantation owner. Meanwhile, Martin Lawrence proves to be a surprising scene stealer as a fisherman obsessed with dolphins. It’s a hilarious interlude that shows Lawrence is a gifted comedic performer when given a good set-up to work up from. This section gets funnier the more it plays on, Korine ends it on a fitting note and then that’s that.

Like Spring Breakers, Korine and his director of photography Benoit Debie bring a certain beauty to the more lower class sections of Florida. The use of colour and shadow is nicely done with some impressive day-for-night shots. Douglas Crise’s editing also deserves mention with how he cuts together the various montages of Moondog’s hijinks. There’s a natural flow as we move from one encounter to another and the editing also helps make certain exchanges that much funnier. Korine chooses the appropriate songs to play over the soundtrack, while John Debney’s score feels like it belongs in a wacky ‘90s family comedy.

Harmony Korine brings a laidback approach to The Beach Bum that befits its lead character. It also gives McConaughey a chance to bring a certain casualness to his screen persona and Korine provides a winning supporting cast for him to play off of. During the opening scenes, one is unsure of Korine’s direction and then he finds a fitting groove for the film. He actually likes his lead protagonist and even though there are the occasional conflicts he runs into, Korine does want Moondog to succeed and win. There is not a cynical bone in The Beach Bum’s body and the result celebrates that unpredictable Floridian culture.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison