Writer/director Harmony Korine makes movies with something of a reputation. Generally, they feature a lot of lowlife types doing awful stuff, and there’s a good chance the trailer probably misrepresented the movie in some way.
His latest, The Beach Bum, has Matthew McConaughey as a poet who seems to enjoy getting high more than actually writing his poetry, and this could be the second McConaughey movie I have seen this year to throw the perspective audience a bit of a curveball on what the movie’s really about. Then again, I doubt anything I see this year will be anything like Serenity.
McConaughey plays Moondog, a poet living in Key West who seems to be perpetually stoned and/or drunk. He doesn’t seem to have too many cares in this world, and while his poetry does seem to sell, he doesn’t produce it very often nor does he seem to have much in the way of actual money. Then again, he doesn’t seem to have a personal need for it either. He spends his days doing whatever thing his lazy ass wants to do, and every so often, we see him cranking away on a typewriter, producing poetry. What resembles a plot for this movie happens when his wife Minnie (Ilsa Fisher) calls him back to Miami, and during the course of the movie, a situation comes up where Moondog has to finish a book. Along the way, he’ll have encounters with longtime friend, weed enthusiast/rapper Lingerie (Snoop Dogg, obviously), borderline sociopath Flicker (Zac Efron), his long suffering literary agent (Jonah Hill doing a really bad Southern accent), his occasionally disapproving adult daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen), and the dolphin-obsessed Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence). Oh, and Jimmy Buffett as himself.
OK, so, I don’t quite know what to make of this movie. Anyone expecting a stoner comedy along the lines of Half Baked or maybe a Cheech and Chong movie will probably be disappointed. Instead, the movie follows Moondog as he seems to simply stumble into good fortune on his way to maybe finishing his book. Despite his general lack of responsibility, people seem to genuinely like and even love the guy. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say Korine was looking to do a deep look into what appears to be a shallow man. True, there are some moments near the end of the movie where it looks like we’re getting a better glimpse into who or what Moondog really is, but these moments are fleeting. That’s probably deliberate. I can’t say I found it overly bad or that I found much of it all that amusing–the Captain Wack scenes have probably the funniest payoff–but would I recommend it? Maybe if you’re in the right mood and know this isn’t the typical stoner comedy. It’s just the story of a guy who somehow breezes through life without too many concerns or worries, and his life up until now suggests that he has never really had to do much to get by. So, let’s go with an ambivalent (despite the grade) 8 out of 10 San Francisco stand-offs.
On a side note, why he needs to be reminded to come home to the loving arms of Ilsa Fisher is a bit beyond me…