Beer and Loathing in the Florida Keys
I hope you like Matthew McConaughey a lot. I also hope you are a big fan of weed humor. If this all sounds like you, then you’re golden, because that’s what you’re going to get for 95 minutes of The Beach Bum. It also helps if you find the aimless hijinks of the rich and famous endearing.
THE BEACH BUM ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Harmony Korine
Written by: Harmony Korine
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, Jimmy Buffett, Jonah Hill
Running time: 95 min
Very light on story, writer/director Harmony Korine’s latest neon-tinged journey into depravity follows the exploits of a rich, burned-out poet in the Florida Keys. Played by McConaughey, his name is Moondog. Yes, Moondog. Picture the most haphazardly-dressed beach hippie you’ve ever seen. Now give him McConaughey’s looks, some of those silly sunglasses with flip-up lenses, and put him on a rustic speed boat with a typewriter and a Pabst Blue Ribbon. That’s Moondog.
In this world, Moondog is a well-known literary virtuoso somehow. He basically has a meal ticket, blank check, and open tab anywhere he goes thanks to poems like, “One day I will swallow up the world. When I do, I hope you all perish violently.” I mean, I guess writing like that can get you rich in this upside-down world in which we now live.
Snoop Dogg, appropriately portrays his best friend, a rapper and ordained minister named Lingerie. Yes, Lingerie. Moondog’s wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) has been carrying on an affair with Lingerie, unbeknownst to Moondog, but even that bit of conflict sort of just evaporates.
Instead, we follow Moondog on a journey from odd and aimless character to odd and aimless character as he tries to finish writing his next book. There’s Jimmy Buffett as himself, seemingly just always ready to play a tune on a boat. Zac Efron, with the best-styled beard I’ve ever seen, plays a recovering addict in a Christian metal band. And, finally, Martin Lawrence shows up on his redemption tour as a dolphin boat hustler named Captain Wack. Yes, Captain Wack. And I have a hard time not recommending The Beach Bum because you simply must witness Jonah Hill’s cameo as Moondog’s literary agent with an inexplicable crawdaddy accent.
Two moments in The Beach Bum distill the entire experience into a mere handful of poignant minutes. A musical interlude where Moondog and Minnie duet on a portable karaoke machine to Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” spoon-feeds the audience the idea, or lack of one, behind the nihilistic excess.
The other moment comes later in the film when Hill’s character muses in a moment of levity, “I love being rich. You can be awful to people, and they just have to take it.” Again, don’t expect to find a moral compass, or any compass for that matter, here.
This is simply what it looks like when a film is concerned mostly with putting a lot of talent up on the screen in the pursuit of what we’ve decided as a society should be fun. I’m not sure what I expected from a movie with McConaughey, Snoop, and Jimmy Buffett, but it was pretty pot-centric. At a South By Southwest screening of the movie, they even gave out scratch-n-sniff postcards that smelled like weed, and you were supposed to smell them during specific scenes.
The Beach Bum is all about that money, booze, drugs, sex, and no accountability. We should all get to live out the tail ends of our careers and retirement like that, but The Beach Bum is probably as close as any of us will ever get to living out this new American Dream.