The tired trippiness of ‘The Beach Bum’
From Harmony Korine comes this quirky, odd tale of self-discovery and redemption. “The Beach Bum” tells the story of a low-life, trashy stoner known as Moondog who, despite never taking life seriously, has been blessed with a wealthy wife, a successful daughter and acclaim as a writer. When a tragic accident occurs, Moondog must take a journey to better himself and fulfill his life dreams.
“The Beach Bum” is a film with plenty of potential. In concept, and in some elements of its execution, the film succeeds at delivering this tale. The idea of a rebellious figure picking up pieces of his past in order to better himself is always one that can inspire. The character of Moondog is mostly fun to be around, in no small part due to Matthew McConaughey’s bombastic performance. He succeeds at crafting a character that we all wish we could be, someone who can go throw caution to the wind while still coming out clean at the end thanks to their never-ending resources.
The supporting cast is also worth highlighting. Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, amongst many others lend their talents to imbue this environment with a sense of character and prove entertaining all the way through. In particular, Martin Lawrence’s character was the highlight of the film, along with the sequence that accompanied him, as this is when the film embraced its bizarreness the most and led to some side-splitting comedy.
Outside of these elements however, the film fails to offer much more. The overall presentation feels very amateur in its approach, which is strange considering that Korine has had experience in the industry for a few decades now. The cinematography was alright with some expressive uses of lighting, but the camera work itself lost focus during several moments. The editing, especially, was very obnoxious. The transitions felt jarring, where characters would bounce back and forth between different locations while still in the same conversation. The odd transitions and overall unfocused nature of the narrative could have been a stylistic choice to show the scatter-brained state of our main character, but it wasn’t done in a cohesive enough way to help in the storytelling.
The film’s thematic weight felt very flat. The movie aims to show Moondog going on a journey to better himself, yet never truly does so. The character is shown doing some straight-up awful things, betraying friends and family in ways that have serious consequences. However, nowhere in the film does Moondog take the time to digest this, nor does he face any true consequence for his actions. Despite this lack of development, the character still gets what he wants by the end, leaving his arc to feel very unfulfilled.
“The Beach Bum” is ultimately a very forgettable experience. Despite some equally good and bad stand-out elements, the entirety of the film fails to deliver anything beyond your typical indie fare. It may entertain those looking for a bit of unbridled raunchiness, but for those hoping for a more substantial experience, this is a trip you’ll want to pass on.