27th Apr2020

‘The Beach Bum’ DVD Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Stefania LaVie Owen, Martin Lawrence, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Donovan St V. Williams, Clinton Archambault, Jerry Ascione, Ricardo Matallana, Joshua Ritter | Written and Directed by Harmony Korine

[NOTE: With the film finally getting a physical release in the UK, here’s a reposting of our review of Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum from it’s US debut over a year ago]

The Beach Bum is directed by independent auteur filmmaker Harmony Korine and his first feature film in a seven-year interval after his critically abolished but cult classic feature Spring Breakers, that gave the filmmaker a second wind of sorts after a decade of influence in the 90s with Kids, Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy. His latest – structurally speaking – is a complete disaster but this a Harmony Korine film and the truly outlandish provocative nature is superbly chaotic and downright outrageously infectious. A terrific hangout film with one very unique superb leading character of Moondog, expertly performed by Matthew McConaughey.

As stated above, the structure utilised by Korine and editor Douglas Crise is virtually non-existent. Forget about act structures here because you are not going to find them. Think of your casual cinema-going experience as a typical day out at the zoo, bear with me. You’ll get to see all the inhabitants walk around in their casual spoon-fed day-to-day routines but it’s not quite the real thing. The Beach Bum is the equivalent of witnessing the same inhabitant’s routine albeit on open safari in their natural habitat. It’s frightening, tense, atmospheric and utterly redundant to even try to replicate anywhere else but in that exact specific moment. The narrative on offer by writer/director Korine is outlandish. It has in store some of the most abrasive, abstract and outrageous sequences that are so stark and in contrast to each other, you have to remind yourself what this is in the first place – an unconventional abstract acid trip.

The acid trip description is the best mindset to go in and explore this without the predetermined outlook of needing to know what this film is really about i.e. The Beach Bum explained. Everything and nothing matters and that’s what makes Korine’s film so exemplary compared to all or any of its rival contemporaries. You’ll get out of The Beach Bum exactly what you put in and to that degree it’s a masterpiece in its own right. There’s no one way to specifically register and analyse what you’ve seen because of the predominant amount of narrative threads that on the surface don’t in any way further the plot, yet in actual fact superbly and expertly enable – subconsciously, of course – a colossal understanding of depth and layers to the main character of Moondog, who is superbly embellished by McConaughey.

McConaughey steals each and every sequence he participates in. It’s not the distinctive method approach that would have McConaughey disappear into the background and Moondog appear, however. Throughout, it’s very clear that McConaughey is performing, albeit with a few twists and turns that indicate it’s a form of spirit animal/therapeutic approach with small cues and Easter eggs with his now infamous bongo drums a major character trait hinting such. The comedic timing and embodiment of Moondog is superb. Granted he does some terrible, deeply disturbing instances of law breaking but with how he’s written and the charismatic charm McConaughey brings, you just can’t help but root for such a warming, albeit fried being dragging himself throughout the ride of life.

The supporting cast also greatly impresses. Snoop Dogg, in a rather rare performance, stands out with superb comedic understanding as Lingerie. Ilsa Fisher plays an integral part, with once again expert comedic embellishment but is slightly underwritten in the overall picture. Jonah Hill, who paid homage to Korine in his very own directorial debut last year with Mid90s, is phenomenal in a rather bloated but perfect cameo as Moondogs literary agent Lewis. Every time Hill is on screen he is absolutely captivating in terms of character crafting and, with the limited screen time, shows what a truly outstanding character actor he can be. Zac Efron, as Flicker, impresses with what is, in essence, another cameo. This one will probably be slightly hit or miss for general audiences, but it reinforces what talent and range he inhabits with an incredibly outlandish performance and his turn as Ted Bundy can’t come sooner. However, the stand out here in his own little world is that of Martin Lawrence as Captain Whack. A story arc that comes out of nowhere and has absolutely no destination in the overall narrative. Yet the sequences themselves between said character and Moondog are priceless to a point of utter amazement and need to be seen to be believed.

The Beach Bum is released on DVD on May 4th, courtesy of Blue Finch Films.


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