The Beach Bum

Review by Hannah Strong @thethirdhan

Directed by

Harmony Korine


Isla Fisher Matthew McConaughey Snoop Dog


Always a joy to hang with Harmony.


What an absolute trip.

In Retrospect.

You’ve just gotta keep livin’, man. L-i-v-i-n’...

Harmony Korine and Matthew McConaughey hit the Florida Keys for a madcap slacker odyssey.

Where does one go as an artist after shooting a film about sociopathic geriatrics, or birthing the image of a cornrow-sporting James Franco fellating a pistol? Harmony Korine, the United States’ preeminent chronicler of bad taste, has taken some time off to ponder this conundrum. Seven years after Spring Breakers gave us sweetheart Selena Gomez playing a college-age gangbanger, his latest ramble down to the Florida Keys refashions another American all-star in Korine’s warped image: this time it’s Matthew McConaughey who plays a leathery pseudo-nomad by the name of Moondog.

In the opening scenes of Korine’s 1997 directorial debut, Gummo, a teenage boy drowns a yowling black cat in a barrel of water; 22 years later, The Beach Bum starts with Moondog happening across a small, impossibly cute white kitten, who he promptly adopts and dubs ‘Angel Pussy’. Perhaps Korine has mellowed in the two decades since his first feature, which was an angry, vaudevillian descent into madness.

Certainly the sun-drenched spectacle of southern Florida feels more mellow than it did last time Korine visited, when it was scored by Skrillex and populated by gun-toting girls in pink balaclavas. In 2019, the Florida Keys are a playground for McConaughey’s shambling, rambling poet – Bob Dylan with a captain’s hat and a penchant for pink fluffy robes.

And who better to play a weirdo unhemmed from society’s expectations that McConaughey, that good ol’ Texan boy who made his name in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused as the similarly aimless David Wooderson? Moondog feels like a natural progression, and his performance is stripped of any pretence or inhibitions, always entertaining and infinitely watchable – quite possibly McConaughey at his zenith, whether he’s gamely smoking a joint from between toes of his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher), or preaching poetry as he drifts out to sea in a lifeboat with Angel Pussy.

Moondog’s hedonistic lifestyle is funded by Minnie, while his teenage daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen) looks on in scant disapproval. His family gently chide Moondog for not finishing his new book, as does Moondog’s agent Lewis (Jonah Hill in another scene-stealing supporting role). But rebellious Moondog refuses to be cowed by, like, society, man, instead opting to hang out with his good buddies Lingerie (Snoop Dog) and Jimmy Buffet, smoking pot and womanising, living the life of a Floridian legend in all its tacky glory.

It’s only when tragedy strikes that Moondog’s way of life is threatened, although he reacts to the suggestion that he might finally have to grow up with utter incredulity, instead opting to befriend local pyromaniac Flicker (Zac Efron, sporting the best haircut and beard combination of the year). As is Korine’s trademark, the film is filled with delightful oddballs – another highlight is Martin Lawrence’s Captain Wack, a local dolphin tour guide.

The best scenes in the film see Moondog just hanging out with his pals, whether it’s Flicker bouncing around a hotel room to Creed’s ‘Higher’ or Captain Wack proudly noting he’s only caused four deaths in eight years of dolphin touring. The plot of The Beach Bum is incidental. The real joy is the kaleidoscopic fairy tale vibe, as easy and breezy as a hot summer’s day at the beach.

Published 22 Oct 2019

Tags: Harmony Korine Isla Fisher Matthew McConaughey Snoop Dog


Always a joy to hang with Harmony.


What an absolute trip.

In Retrospect.

You’ve just gotta keep livin’, man. L-i-v-i-n’...

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