You may know Filmmaker Harmony Korine as the prodigy writer of the controversial indie drama Kids, which he wrote at the age of 18 and saw it hit the screens when he was 22. The younger set may know him as the Writer/Director of the drug fuelled crime spree Spring Breakers in 2012.
Korine’s latest movie is The Beach Bum, it follows Matthew McConaughey (“Serenity“, “White Boy Rick“) as Moondog, a rebellious stoner, poet, who lives life by his own rules. We quickly learn that Moondog lives on a boat, he is not a fan of solid ground.
The setting of The Beach Bum is a second lead in many ways. From the beginning we see Moondog on the streets and shore lined bars of Key West and know he is home. The locals love him and they have plenty of reason to, Moondog personifies the care free way of life they all identify with.
This was an obvious choice for Harmony Korine, who has said that he spent some time living in Miami and Key West and encountered many a Moondog in his years.
The plot of The Beach Bum is simple, Moondog gets a surprise call from his wife Minnie, played by Isla Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”, “The Great Gatsby”), which sends him to their Miami mansion to attend their daughter’s wedding.
Once Moondog is re-united with Minnie and their daughter Heather, played by Stefania LaVie Owen (“Krampus”, “The Lovely Bones”), they push him out of his comfort zone to finally publish his poetry and get his life together. But Moondog is clearly an iconoclast, he will not go easy, and from that, conflict and humor arises.
This phone call is the first we hear that Moondog is married and see that his distant, yet loving wife is rich, living a life in direct contrast to him. Part of the reason The Beach Bum made a splash since its premier at South By Southwest is the star studded cast behind the characters who inhabit Moondog’s world.
Comedic highlights were Martin Lawrence (“Bad Boys”, “Martin” – TV Series) in a comeback performance as Captain Wack, the world’s worst Dolphin Tour Guide, and Jonah Hill (“The Lego Batman Movie“, “The Wolf Of Wall Street”) as Moondog’s Manager, Lewis. Some may think the Cajun accent Jonah Hill tried on was a bit of a stretch, I went with it however and laughed at all of these scenes.
You may blink twice to confirm you are watching a scene with Snoop Dogg (“Meet The Blacks”, “Future World”) singing along with Jimmy Buffett on a yacht surrounded by topless women.
Zac Efron (“The Disaster Artist“, “Baywatch”) plays the fast talking Flicker, with a strange facial hair design which Harmony Korine says was inspired by a Panini Sandwich. (I’ll let you digest that one a second.)
I feel it would be hard for me to review The Beach Bum without comparing it with Korine’s other film Spring Breakers. The parallels are clear. Both center around a larger than life protagonist in a tropical setting. It is hard to forget James Franco as the rapper tuned crime lord, Alien in Spring Breakers.
Matthew McConaughey embraced the improvisational style of a Harmony Korine set, just as Franco did. The over all tone of The Beach Bum tells you this movie was fun to make and took advantage of a free-form narrative.
The main difference for me is the loose structure of The Beach Bum felt more like separate comedy sketches than the free wheeling crime story Spring Breakers delivered. That being said, the various moments of The Beach Bum were bold, fresh and highly entertaining.
It was a joy to see Moondog speed down the road with a joint in one hand and his phone in the other while he promises Minnie he will be on time for the wedding, that he’s on the way. Or when Moondog takes five puts on the green at a golf coarse without concern for what the score is.
How about the trailer image of him typing his poetry on a manual typewriter, shirtless, under the hot orange sunset. These moments reminded me of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I loved.
The Beach Bum is a sun soaked trip, passing over, around and through each step of Moondog’s journey. With a very unconventional ending, this movie is not for everyone, which one has to believe is by design.
I admire the casual nature that The Beach Bum was produced under, it shows on screen. This was a fitting backdrop for bringing a one of a kind character like Moondog to life. Perhaps that is all we need to fully appreciate this movie, the street poetry of it all, is the ability to see it from Moondog’s perspective.
I encourage you to watch the movie this way, to go with the flow and make up your own mind. On March 29th, The Beach Bum was released theatrically in many countries including the United States and Canada.
Curt Wiser is the Writer/Director of the Suspense movie Cam-Girl. As a filmmaker and artist he is happy to spread his sail and go wherever movies may take him.