Smoke Your Worries Away With ‘The Beach Bum’

I need to preface this with the disclosure that I am not a Harmony Korine guy. I get the appeal, I see the talent, I get why people are so devoted to him, but I am not a Harmony Korine guy. I just wish he would spend more time actually making a film and less time trying to be “provocative” in cheap ways (Spring Breakers, Gummo, Trash Humpers). But with that all said, with all my reservations…….I had the biggest smile on my face the entire time I was watching The Beach Bum. I was told to expect this feeling from those who I trust, but I still was not prepared for just how much I would love this movie when I finally watched it last week. And fellas, with all the dread in the world right now, it’s nice to just be happy for 90 minutes. 

Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) is a brilliant poet and is always on some form of booze and drugs, and leads his carefree existence in defiance and celebration in the Key West community in Florida. That’s all I got for you on plot, as this film is wondrously aimless as we follow Moondog through his misadventures. 

Everybody in this cast is clearly having a great time. Me and my buddy were early and proud stockholders in the McConaissance, so of course I’m going to love McConaughey playing a dude named Moondog and every single acting decision made here. This was the kind of film and role made specifically for me to enjoy McConaughey in. I don’t know what else to say. If you know, you know. Jonah Hill is an actor that has always had a direct line to my funny bone, and he was busting me up as Moondog’s manager Lewis, channeling Ashley Schaeffer with one of the most theatrically ridiculous southern accents. His accent is so ridiculous you can see Hill himself trying not to laugh in his scenes, just making the humor even better. There’s a part where Jonah Hill sees a pretty woman at the bar and says “Call my motherfuckin chiropractor……My back is gonna be fucked up tomorrow!” and I laughed so hard I gave myself a headache. It was around that time I texted my buddy Huston that this was the greatest film ever made. Zac Efron is a joy, and there’s a part with Martin Lawrence that had me dying laughing. 

The Beach Bum is almost an anti-thesis to Korine’s other films in that it’s like if you replaced all of his nastiness and gratuity with carefree vibes and joy, yet still retains his distinct sense of visuals and editing and stark sense of realism in settings. I didn’t know this is all I’ve ever wanted from Korine, that he could make a movie that would make me this relentlessly happy watching it. Even the sad moments have this comforting hope and joy to them. You just can’t get Moondog down. I’ve never done drugs, but you feel like you’re on some of the stuff Moondog is throwing in himself, but it never feels over-the-top. It strangely feels comforting to be taking a hit of whatever Moondog is. It’s a good trip. This is some of the best execution of Benoît Debie’s cinematography and his natural gifts. He always makes otherworldly magic with his handle on neon lighting, but here manages to combine that with a sort of docu-drama hand-held technique without clashing the two styles. It’s a hard combo, but he is one of the only cinematographers capable of that, whisking you away in Moondog’s fantasy life. 

It’s an awful world right now. This president and his administration are looking to profit off of the COVID-19 pandemic instead of helping the people and the states who need it. The president chooses to spread misinformation and antagonize the people who need help in order to inflate his ego as the death tolls pile up. Wisconsin is still holding elections and effectively demanding people risk their health – life or death – in order to vote. Remember, just a month ago the democratic party came together to stop the only candidate who supports medicare for all. The centrist democrats choice still doesn’t support it, and the media refuses to discuss the sexual assault allegations against Biden. We don’t matter to them.  I’m sorry, I’m going to stop myself before I get too angry at the world to do anything. This world will not be the same after this is all over. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to us. But for now, in all this evil and futility, it was so great to not feel any of that if only for 90 minutes. Let me have another hit of that stuff, Moondog.

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