'The Beach Bum' is a nonchalant watch with its heart in the right place.
After seeing the absurdity that was Serenity this past January, I was pretty set on Matthew McConaughey for the rest of the year. Of course, that was a complete lie, and I was obviously going to watch a movie that starred McConaughey, basically in a roll that was written FOR him. The Beach Bum had a very brief theatrical run, grossing only $1.8 million on its opening weekend - the lowest opening in McConaughey’s career. I was fortunate to watch it on my friend’s Hulu account, and it is certainly a trip of a movie. McConaughey absolutely shines, as does the rest of the cast, but it’s a casual movie not asking for much from its audience.
McConaughey plays pseudo-nomad poet Moondog, who galavants through life as a local legend to the Florida Keys as he interacts with anyone he pleases, all in an attempt to slowly complete his next book. His wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), tolerates Moondog’s behavior - including his infidelity - while she enjoys her own wealth and has an affair with his best friend named Lingerie (Snoop Dogg). Moondog spends his days getting stoned with Lingerie and letting the wind blow him in any direction to the next party until he eventually gets to where he needs to be.
Everyone knows, by now, that the best roles Matthew McConaughey shines in are the stoner rolls. Whether or not he’s partaking in the devil’s lettuce on his own time, there’s no denying he’s a beacon of “cool” for stoners across the world. People can rightfully argue Dazed and Confused is still his best movie but this might the movie to put that claim to the test. Despite Moondog’s state-of-mind throughout, this is not a straightforward stoner comedy. If that’s what you want, go watch Half Baked. Don’t forget, Harmony Korine directed this, so it’s expected that this will come with a lot of arthouse tendencies. While McConaughey’s acting is no surprise, the remainder of the cast looks to be having a blast as well*. Why wouldn’t Snoop want to play a musician with the best Verde in Miami? Jonah Hill is SO weird in this movie as Moondog’s agent, but he somehow makes it work. Zac Efron and Martine Lawrence, as briefly as they are in this movie, absolutely make their presence rememberable even when they’re long gone from the movie. While the story is as much of a haze as Moondog’s brain, it works because you fall in love with every character you come across - and at the rate Moondog moves from situation to situation, you meet a LOT of characters.
Harmony Korine effectively keeps a consistent tone throughout the movie: As Moondog sustains life’s highs and lows, he glides through it all like a stoned Forrest Gump. Nothing really affects Moondog, so we never get to really see what’s inside his brain. He even commits a number of crimes in the movie and none of it ever seems to catch up to him, as if they were poofed out of existence at Moondog’s own will and peace-of-mind. The most endearing aspect of the movie is everyone else in Moondog’s world shares his good nature and no evil befalls him.
Heartfelt performances from Matthew McConaughey and Isla Fischer, for sure. Zac Efron and Snoop Dogg are brilliant, and the Martin Lawrence portion might be the highlight of the whole movie for me (aside from the Jimmy Buffet cameo). The story of The Beach Bum and the character of Moondog aren't very deep. In both respects, what you see is what you get. But they're both interesting and fun, to say the least.
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*Isla Fischer apparently was NOT happy about all the actual smoking of cannabis from certain cast members on set.