Harmony Korine has a reputation for creating films of unbridled energy and absurdity and somehow finding the authenticity within them; seven years on from the kinetic pulse of Spring Breakers, the filmmaker is finally stepping behind the camera again, for this pot-fuelled treat.
The Beach Bum’s arrival to UK screens has been a long time coming – the film released back in March overseas, spawning many memes and joyful anecdotes of stars Matthew McConaughey and Snoop Dogg promoting the film whilst higher than kites. Thankfully, it was worth the wait. Like Spring Breakers before it, Beach Bum ticks away with an energy only Korine can concoct; it’s borderline cartoonish, following the debauchery of decadent former-poet Moondog (McConaughey) in the Sunshine State – fear and loathing in Miami, if you will.
When he goes from millionaire to flat broke in a matter of moments, Moondog is presented with two options: either he can clean up his act and finally finish the collection of poems which he has been procrastinating for years, or lose all his wealth and stature. Reluctantly agreeing, he seeks the help of a host of colourful characters to assist him in rediscovering himself and his purpose in life. If it sounds reminiscent of a plot we’ve seen before, that’s because it is – Hollywood has a real love for trope-riddled redemption stories. Yet The Beach Bum isn’t really about the narrative; the premise is more so to cobble the whole thing together. What makes the film so excellent – or disdainful, depending on your viewpoint – is its irreverence for cliches and plot, and great focus on having a good time. Through its caricature characters, trippy aesthetic and sheer absurdity (Martin Lawrence plays a very angry, enthusiastic dolphin fanatic), it does exactly that: entertain.
There’s something so inherently enjoyable about seeing an actor as established as McConaughey just cutting loose and going full pot-head in this very gonzo role; the same can be said for the cohort of names he’s joined by – a roster which includes the aforementioned Lawrence, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill and Isla Fisher collectively hamming it up. They’re all just clearly having fun with the material and give very committed, enjoyable turns. The situations Moondog gets himself in are endlessly entertaining, and great comedy stems from the most drug-addled moments; there’s also a surprising amount of heart, and the film has a great thematic presence that rears its head towards the final act – that of fulfilment, purpose, and reflection.
It’s a surprising turn into more meditative territory that perhaps feel a little misplaced at first but really works in adding edge and nuance to a film which is about Matthew McConaughey getting high for 95 minutes. You have to really be on-board with Korine’s vibrant, high-energy storytelling sensibilities to appreciate the maddening nature Beach Bum offers. It’s not for everyone. But if you just want to kick back and have a good time, this is 100% the film for you. If you want to feel as high as all the characters in this, just watch the film. It has a power. It’s intoxicating. Drink it up. Smoke it up. Just consume it and enjoy the admittedly absurd yet wholly brilliant ride.
The Beach Bum is out October 25th.