SXSW: Matthew McConaughey in "The Beach Bum"
Monday, March 11, 2019 at 1:20PM
Abe Fried-Tanzer in Harmony Korine, Isla Fisher, Jimmy Buffet, Jonah Hill, Martin Lawrence, Matthew McConaughey, SXSW, Snoop Dogg, The Beach Bum, Zac Efron, comedy, film festivals

Abe Fried-Tanzer reporting from the SXSW Festival...

You know that any movie which has its publicists passing out “scratch and sniff” cards to help audiences smell weed during select scenes is going to be a wild ride. Matthew McConaughey playing the title character in a movie called The Beach Bum should be enough of an indication, and, if still more reassurance was needed, the fact that it comes from writer-director Harmony Korine should put any doubts to rest: this is going to be one out-of-control film. 

Korine’s last film was Spring Breakers, a mostly-praised portrait of college students-turned-criminals featuring a highly memorable and indescribable performance from James Franco...

That film, which didn’t win me over, boasted vivid colors and a general feeling of being distanced from reality. Korine’s latest is more grounded in its presentation of its events, yet its lead character is totally unhinged. The life he lives is both excessive and completely ridiculous, but he drinks and smokes more than he does anything else. Somehow, the concept that he is a revered poet who has thrown his life and promise away makes sense, and literally anyone watching would be able to suggest one or two simple things that McConaughey’s Moondog could do to get back on track, but he isn’t about to listen to anyone who doesn’t just want to relax with him.

Watching this high would likely enhance your level of enjoyment, but doing it sober is actually rather captivating. The romance between Moondog and his wife (Isla Fisher) may be unconventional, but there’s something about the passion they have – and have no trouble expressing in front of their staff– that feels entirely authentic. Moondog tightly gripping his son-in-law’s groin at his own wedding, officiated by his best friend and drug kingpin Lingerie (Snoop Dogg), is just one of the many things he does in public that don’t seem to faze him or those who have come to know him. 

McConaughey, who was born to play this role, is joined by an eclectic cast that includes Zac Efron as a hyperactive rehab patient, Jonah Hill as a lawyer with a Southern drawl, and Martin Lawrence as a less-than-professional dolphin-viewing boat tour operator. Jimmy Buffett even shows up! Describing this movie as trippy isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s definitely a trip. Spending too much time in the sun watching Moondog use the world as his own personal playground has the potential to mess with your head, but there’s something serene and oddly sentimental about the experience that manages to find its way out from inside the madness.

The Beach Bum opens in movie theaters on March 29th.

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