The Beach Bum
2019, R, 95 min. Directed by Harmony Korine. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Martin Lawrence.
REVIEWED By Dan Gentile, Fri., March 29, 2019
There’s a moment in The Beach Bum when aging wastrel Moondog smokes a joint in a hammock, surrounded by naked women, with two hands on a bongo drum and a mouthful of gibberish poetry. That moment lasts 95 minutes, and it is glorious.
Harmony Korine’s latest exercise in no-seatbelt-style filmmaking casts McConaughey in the role he was born to play: a burnt-out, Florida Keys beat-poet celebrity named Moondog. His insatiable appetite for partying is fueled by the fortune of his wife Minnie (Fisher), but their marital status doesn’t slow either of them down. Moondog howls at anything that moves, and Minnie’s in an open-secret affair with his best friend, a rapper named Lingerie (Snoop Dogg) who steals every scene.
On the night of their daughter’s wedding, Moondog kills Minnie in a drunken car wreck … but that still can’t slow him down. He grieves for one scene, reminiscing about his wife’s ass with her side-dude Snoop, but the bender snowballs on. A judge puts him in rehab, and funds run dry due to a clause in Minnie’s will that dictates he’ll receive nothing until he publishes another book. So he breaks out of rehab, gives drunken dolphin tours with Captain Wack (Lawrence) for drug money, writes his book, gets his cash, and promptly wastes it in a blaze of glory.
The MVP of the production is casting director LaShawnna Stanley, whose ragtag, slapstick team of stars look like they’re having the time of their lives – especially Jimmy Buffett in a self-aware extended cameo. Snoop looks looser than he ever has on film, ditching his typical indica nod and leaning into master of ceremony duties. McConaughey lives in the Moondog role, swaggering like a sloshed pirate in what will be one of his definitive performances.
The film has an avalanche of vice on par with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and may be destined for similar cult status – only for those who can stomach Korine’s style of vulgarity. As long as it comes with a punchline, these characters relish senseless violence (and sex), a theme the filmmaker has explored throughout his career with films like Kids and Spring Breakers. Jonah Hill delivers a line about the rich being able to do horrible things with no repercussions. There’s no shortage of disgusting scenes and will likely score a few walkouts, but the film moves so fast that there’s barely time to stop and smell the consequences. You can’t help but hope that Moondog just keeps on l-i-v-i-n’, man.