Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum

“I mean fuck, we’re here to have a good time.. I just wanna have a good time until this shit’s over, man. This life gig is a fucking rodeo and I’m gonna suck the nectar and fucking rawdog it till the wheels come off.”

Watching Matthew McConaughey stumble around swilling tall cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon holding a kitten is probably one of the more relatable things I’ve seen in cinema recently. Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum is a film I loved with all my heart and got tremendous, serotonin laced enjoyment out of, a raucous party of a film that celebrates drinking in excess, deliberately poor life choices, reckless and immature behaviour and just taking life as it comes wave by wave, committed to having a good time regardless of the consequences and turning a purposeful blind eye to any responsibilities one might have as an adult human being. I can’t say that Matthew McConaughey’s brilliant performance as perennial party animal Moondog and all he represents which I’ve just outlined above is any constructive way to approach life or a conducive fashion to behave in, but I also can’t promise you that it hasn’t been my go-to mantra many times over the course of my own life for many reasons, and I felt connected with this film on a level I can’t even put into words. This is interesting because as much as I love (and I mean LOVE) this film is about as much as I HATED Korine’s previous and much celebrated effort, Spring Breakers. Everything that was shrill, crass and fucking irritatingly hollow about the hedonistic lifestyle in that film rings eternally truer in Beach Bum, it’s like Korine hit the dirt jump hard and busted up his bike with Breakers and then went for one more go with Bum, and this time he soars up over the crest of the jump into a Miami sunset in glorious triumph. McConaughey is pure intoxicated eccentric gold as Moondog, a brilliant writer of poetry who seems to want nothing more in life than to drink beer, smoke a ton of weed, have sweaty sun soaked sex with anything that moves, cause endless mischief and fuck around, and who can blame him. He’s got a rich wife (Isla Fisher) who passes away and leaves him a fortune on the condition that he publishes his very long awaited novel, a simple task that becomes a cosmic obstacle for him, as does going to rehab or simply walking in a straight line. He smokes up with his wife’s boyfriend Lingerie (Snoop Dogg playing himself and loving it) and Jimmy Buffett (also pretty much playing himself), engages in vandalism with fellow rehab escapee Flicker (Zac Efron in Joker mode) and just keeps up this lifestyle that few could walk out the other side of alive but he seems to swagger through with all the wanton aplomb of Jack Sparrow mixed with The Dude Lebowski and Charles Bukowski. He comes across other characters in his travels played by the likes of Jonah Hill and commands an army of cackling homeless dudes but my favourite of these cartoonish individuals has to be Martin Lawrence as Captain Wack, a deranged dolphin obsessed weirdo who suits Lawrence’s maniacal brand of comedy beautifully. So what does it all mean and what is Korine trying to say with all this colourful hoo-hah? That’s what I struggled with in Spring Breakers and still believe that film to be an ugly, grotesque piece of non-entertainment, but I think he’s trying to say more or less the same thing in both films, it’s just that with Beach Bum he actually succeeds. Moondog puts it better than anyone could when he imparts a monologue, an excerpt from which I’ve opened this review with. He just wants to have fun, isn’t concerned about money, day to day hustle, success, what anyone thinks of him or making anything of himself, he just wants to have a fucking good time. And write the occasional passage of poetry when the mood strikes. The film is more about kicking back, relaxing with Jim and observing someone of his outlook balls deep in enjoying themselves like a creature who lives moment to moment with little regard for anything else. Don’t even get me started on the breathtaking cinematography, 10/10 soundtrack or any technical aspects because we’ll be here all day. This worked for me on a deep level, and is now one of my favourite films of all time.

-Nate Hill

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