And Perfectly Oddball Cast;
But It Meanders.
How is it possible that this was both exactly what I expected and not even close to what I thought it would be…at the same time? I went into this expecting an off-the-wall stoner comedy and while that is exactly what I got, the journey itself was something else entirely. I found myself shaking my head in pure disbelief almost as often as I was laughing, simultaneously aware that this type of story defies belief in every way and that it hit that mark entirely on purpose. If I read into its intents properly, it succeeds wildly, but I almost feel that in trying to think about it and assign any meaning at all, I’m defeating the purpose.
After this and Spring Breakers, it seems almost too obvious that Harmony Korine needs to add one final sun-soaked installment in an unconnected trilogy of bacchanalian bliss. He has a way of presenting a location’s best and worst traits (and people) side-by-side, making bad behavior and poor decisions look like the only ideas worth pursuit, giving his work a quirky charm that can’t be denied.
Matthew McConaughey defines the concept of being born to play a part here, absolutely owning every facet of Moondog, who is on screen (smoking weed and drinking) for almost every frame. He is a certified treat, albeit someone who seemingly can’t exist in real life, or at least not under these circumstances. Moondog is a poet with a rich wife, endless desires and the vibe of the coolest possibly homeless guy you know. For someone who matches the “fuck it” attitude of The Dude, he couldn’t act more differently. Perhaps they don’t have bowling in Florida.
The reat of the cast is up to the challenge of having as much fun as Moondog, with perfectly-cast spots for Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Jimmy Buffet, Zac Efron and Martin Lawrence. Yes, you read all that right. No, I won’t go ibto any more detail. The situations Moondog finds himself in with these people are as funny as they are ridiculous, and that’s not a bad thing.
Where the script suffers is its unfocused meandering. There isn’t a lot of plot to grab onto, and while that may have been precisely Korine’s aim, you can’t help but wonder just what you’re doing with your life while watching it. Though, compared to Moondog, you’re probably doing alright. The viewer just casually floats through the story the same way Moondog floats through life, taking things as they come. Sure, he has a mission, but it’s easy to get distracted, between the beasts, drug use, hijinks, giggling and drug use.
Korinen and his DP Benoit Debie frame and loght the film gorgeously, and some of the shots really stand out, even amongst all the lavish surroundings. Everything is just awesome to observe, and the music that accompanies it makes it even better. Douglas Crise’s editing job sells the idea that all these repetitive, intoxicated moments would blend together in a mind like Moondog’s. Sometimes, a conversation is staged in two different locations with entirely different marks and it cuts back and forth between the two frequently. It’s effective at putting you into the protagonist’s mind…if that’s truly possible.
I think the film is saying something about excess and greed. Perhaps it’s a warning against taking life too seriously. Or maybe it’s just about getting high, having sex and enjoying a good poem. I’m not sure, but I’m okay with that.
The Beach Bum is Written and Directed by Harmony Korine