Directed By Harmony Korine
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fischer
The Plot – Moondog (McConaughey) is a fun-loving, pot-smoking, beer-drinking writer who lives life on his own terms in Florida. If he can put down the drugs for just one minute, he may finally be able to put his talent to good use and finish the next great American novel.
Rated R for pervasive drug and alcohol use, adult language throughout, nudity and some strong sexual content
– Stylish cinematography. Korine as a filmmaker has always had his own brand of visual flare that cements the idea that this is indeed one of his films, even if you’re walking into it late, and “The Beach Bum” continues this trend, tasting the Florida essence with screen-reflective visual trances to lock you in. The sunbaked daytime scenes offer plenty of reflective light and glow reflecting off of the screen without ever compromising the integrity of the shot, and the nighttime scenes radiate with a combination of gorgeous sunsets in the backgrounds and neon ambiance in the foreground. If nothing else strikes you about this movie, the lavish visual presence of an experienced director most certainly will, and it allowed me to get lost in aspects of the film where others simply didn’t add up.
– Symbolism in editing. When you first begin the movie, the jumps forward and back might alienate you into fully investing into the unfurling of this screenplay, but I quickly saw an uncanny intention with it that brought everything together psychologically. Korine is showing us things from the mind of his cloudy protagonist, full of choppy, non-linear memories, that often feel like a bad drug trip from the man trying to recall a lifetime of memories. Too many cuts in films often instills a sense of distraction for me personally, but it’s certainly easy to understand here why so many scenes overlap and even intrude upon the current day narrative that we’re experiencing, making everything feel like a vivid fantasy instead of reality, which feels so very far away.
– Korine loves his music. Another continuing trend from Harmony in this film, is his collection of genre-vapid favorites that make up arguably my single favorite soundtrack in 2019 to date. Besides obvious artists like Jimmy Buffet or Snoop Dogg (Both are in the film), the inclusion of Waylon Jennings, Eddie Money, and even my second favorite song from The Cure (Just Like Heaven) all pop up, and help establish a line of audible clarity for understanding Moondog’s often foggy demeanor with experiencing certain events. In that regard, the soundtrack serves a far greater purpose than musical incorporation for this film, it basically feels like the non-stop narration that is constantly on repeat in our protagonist’s cerebrum, meant to enhance our connection to someone who feels planets away from what we’re used to.
– Positive deep-seeded message. Because this feels like a sequel to McConaughey’s character in “Dazed and Confused”, you can easily comprehend what will come with all of this madness and debauchery. Late in the movie, Moondog explains that “Life is too short, and I’m going to ride this motherfucker all the way to the finish line”. A little expletive in explanation, but honorable when you consider how much those of us take life too seriously. In that regard, it’s easy to compliment a filmmaker like Korine for making (Above everything else) fun films first. and leaving everything else to award-hungry filmmakers, whose only purpose is to pad their reputations. More than any film he’s done before, this feels like the most responsive from Korine, if only to instill his life’s purpose into a character who sports go-go boots and women’s dresses.
– Incoherent mess of a screenplay. For 90 jumbled minutes, this is really just a collection of scene instances where Moondog experiences certain things. They rarely add up to anything bigger than just that, and manage to carve out a film plot that makes the television show “Seinfeld” feel like it’s full of depth. It feels like Korine had an idea for a movie, abandoned it, instead filmed celebrity interactions in the Florida Keys, and then remembered he was there for a reason once it was all too late. There’s evidence in this with how the story weaves its way in and out of Moondog’s conflict, which receives a resolution that is every bit unbelievable as it is unsatisfying for anyone seeking a character transformation or redemption of any sort.
– Speaking of unbelievable, the people and world that surround Moondog nearly eclipse him in terms of how they treat him. If you want me to believe for even five seconds that this guy is a critically acclaimed poet based on some of the most crude vocabulary ever put to pen and paper, fine, but I can’t in good conscience believe that this man lives in a near lawless society, full of strangers who view him as a god. There’s a scene during the film where Moondog kisses another man’s wife, and the man basically shrugs it off as a lightning bug that landed on his shoulder. I guess I wish that there was a secondary reality that eventually eclipses Moondog’s as the film progressed, leading him to see things in ways he wouldn’t otherwise, but it never comes. I might not do drugs, but I would enjoy living in a place where there are essentially zero consequences to your irresponsible actions.
– The lack of performances. There’s nothing of acting merit from this exceptionally collective ensemble of actors, minus perhaps Jonah Hill as Moondog’s southern accent pervert agent, and instead only preserves the familiar personalities from these people that we’ve come to expect. These are amplified versions of McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Fisher, Zac Efron, and Martin Lawrence in particular, without any kind of chance or experimentation to recommend to curious moviegoers. I can at least say that these actors are having fun with the material, but the lack of actual acting going on with the transformations of their roles is something that gives this film an unmistakable feeling of a vacation-first film that we’ve come to expect from Adam Sandler films.
– Floundering comedy. It’s tough enough dealing with a film with almost zero comic effect, but when a movie makes you feel like a grumpy old man in response to it, I hate it that much more. With the exception of a Martin Lawrence shark attack scene (You read that right) that completely made me lose my mind in laughter, the rest of the film feels like one big weed smoke-out that I couldn’t possibly understand because I didn’t partake in it. Credit for it being able to let the bad jokes go, but the material as a whole is so consistently underwhelming that it comes off more as tragic for Moondog than it does as something that enhances his personality. If you’re expecting laughs from a trailer that edits together the best moments in the movie, DON’T.
– Bad social message. This might be perhaps in contradiction to the positive ideological message that I mentioned earlier, but the pretentiousness associated with rich middle-aged cheating white men being praised for doing absolutely nothing might not blend well with the current progressive era of filmmaking with a social backbone of its own. Hell, one of the things that made me curious after the trailer was how this awful poet became rich in the first place, but it was quickly revealed in the film that it comes from his wife’s family fortune. So now we have all of those things on top of being a provider who essentially doesn’t provide. This aspect alone makes the movie feel two decades outdated, with no presence in the current day landscape of films that demand more for change.
– Twists that amount to nothing. There’s no real weight brought into the fold by some pretty shocking revelations during the film. Essentially, it feels like these drops of awareness to make sure the audience hasn’t fallen asleep, before the thin narrative continues to overstretch its boundaries. This also feeds into the hope I had that the film would go somewhere dark and ominous in the same way “Spring Breakers” eventually did, but they are these throwaway moments of pointless exposition that have no redeeming value to the progression of the hazy narrative. If you don’t believe me, consider taking them all out of the film all together, and see how different it makes the film.
My Grade: 4/10 or D