Review: The Beach Bum
Sunday, March 31, 2019 at 7:00AM
Murtada Elfadl in Harmony Korine, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Reviews, Snoop Dogg, The Beach Bum, Zac Efron

by Murtada Elfadl

If your favorite Matthew Mcconaughey mood is of the naked bongo drumming variety, then Harmony Korine has made just the movie for you. In The Beach Bum Mcconaughey is Moondog, a rebellious rogue living outside society in Florida doing exactly what he wants, whenever he wants it, and all the while high as a kite. He’s nice, benevolent, kind, mostly peaceful, accepting of all and of their foibles. He believes in true love and practices it (straight of course but not adverse to a bit of cross dressing). Even when he finds out his wife (Isla Fisher) is also sleeping with other people, it takes him literally only a minute to go from surprise to complete acceptance.

The plot -if we can call it that - is to follow Moondog along his travels in Key West and Miami...

His daughter (Stefania LaVie Owen) gets married, he has a run with the law and has to go to rehab, he loses access to the fortune that was subsidizing his carefree existence and receives an ultimatum to return to his previous life as a published author. If it sounds haphazard, it’s not. While watching we don't bat an eyelash and take it all in stride. McConaughey is loose, funny sexy. This is probably the role he was always meant to play, if you are a fan don’t miss it.

If you accept he movie on Moondog's cheery terms and go with the flow you’ll have a good time. However beyond that keep expectations low. The film explores his poignant loving relationships with his wife and daughter, and has a pro kindness and anti establishment message that’s easy to embrace. It’s all for finding what makes you tick and not caring about anything else. However some might want more. Korine’s apparent acceptance of this sort of checking out existence and the story’s rejection of societal structures stops short of biting satire. There’s more — on capitalism, on privilege, on Americana — that could’ve been explored.

The Beach Bum is beautifully and colorfully shot by Benoît Debie (The Sisters Brothers, Fill the Void). The vibrant tropical colors are reminiscent of the aesthetic of Debie’s previous collaboration with Korine, Spring Breakers, though this time less garish in keeping with the story. The costumes by Heidi Bivens are also detailed and capture the lush mood of South Florida.  

The supporting cast is a mixed bag. Fisher is lovely and Snoop Dogg, as a family friend, provides both a foil and playmate for McConaughey accentuating his charm. Zac Efron, as fellow rehab center patient, and Jonah Hill, as Moondog’s agent, are way too affected. That works to a point for Hill and completely does not for Efron. He comes off as irritating, and begs the question why would Moondog want to spend time with him? If the point is that Moondog is so open to people and easy peasy he doesn't see annoying, then mission accomplished.

The Beach Bum may be Korine’s attempt at mainstream accessibility — with movie stars and an unambiguous narrative — but it still comes off as niche.  

Grade: B

Article originally appeared on The Film Experience (
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