Harmony Korine’s “The Beach Bum” is the cinematic equivalent of that Florida Man Twitter feed come to life. The role of Moondog is one that Matthew McConaughey seems to have been born to play, but why he’d choose to do so is another thing.
Riffing somewhat off his last film, the flawed but much better “Spring Breakers,” Korine has engaged in another exploration of oddballs and sleazeballs in Florida, but with diminishing returns. At least “Spring Breakers” was filled with great photography and a strong James Franco performance, whereas “The Beach Bum” is just one scene after another of hedonistic abandon and nonstop rambling from the entire cast.
The film is nearly plotless, other than Moondog being called back to Miami from the Florida Keys by his wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), because their daughter is getting married. Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg pops up as Minnie’s occasional lover and Moondog’s friend. Jonah Hill plays Moondog’s agent and has an unplaceable and not particularly convincing accent. Jimmy Buffett is cast as, well, himself.
Much of the film is merely Moondog meandering from one scenario to the next – the wedding, a sudden death, Moondog’s eviction from his home, his being sent to rehab and some bad behavior with a young man (played by Zac Efron) he met at rehab. The final scenes involved Moondog’s attempt to complete a book of poems – and the ridiculous results of that project.
McConaughey had been on a roll for the past few years, but 2019 has not been kind so far, between the disastrous “Serenity” and this film, which he could have played in his sleep in his early 20s. It doesn’t help that the film frequently borders on the ludicrous – it features what has to be the least convincing death scene I’ve seen in a film in some time, a sequence featuring Martin Lawrence as a boat captain that is tedious and a lack of closure for the film’s various plot threads.
There is one line of dialogue that hints at the better film “The Beach Bum” could have been had it pursued a different train of thought: “You know the best thing about being rich? You can be horrible to people and they just have to take it.” It’s a line of dialogue, spoken by Hill’s character, that sums up our current national moment.
Despite its middling results as a film, while watching “The Beach Bum,” I felt that it was a movie for the Trump era – a celebration of vapidity, hedonism, gaudy wealth, trashy behavior and a lack of concern for anything outside one’s own bubble. Had Korine’s film addressed this concept in more than merely a few lines, his latest movie would have been much more than what it ends up being – a series of aimless scenes in search of a unifying concept.