After Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine had a lot riding on Beach Bum. The film stars McConaughey as Moondog, a pot-smoking, booze-sniffing party animal who lives off his wits and a bevy of only-in-Florida acquaintances.
With stringy Hulk Hogan hair, cheap flip-up baseball shades and a dog whistle laugh, the actor fully embraces the role. But his devotion to hedonistic decadence may test viewers’ tolerance.
Moondog (Matthew McConaughey)
Moondog is the boozy, beach-fried embodiment of a certain type of gonzo America. He’s a self-parodying poet who spends his days in a Jimmy Buffett-ish haze, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and banging on bongos while flinging himself at strangers and writing poetic thoughts down on a portable typewriter. He’s also rich, having married Minnie (Isla Fisher), a sexually voracious moneybag who fully embraces her husband’s ne’er-do-well ways.
McConaughey fully commits to the gnula film role, decked out in stringy Hulk Hogan-style hair and cheap flip-up sunglasses, reiterating his anything-goes persona with a big smile and a raucous, dog-whistle laugh. It’s a gratifying showcase for an actor who can turn on the charisma when needed, but his relentless blissed-out vibe wears thin after 90 minutes. He’s a polarizing presence, even when paired with supporting characters like Flicker and Jonah Hill’s Southern-dandy literary agent who try to upstage him with their own shenanigans.
Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence)
After the raucous excess of Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum takes aim at an older, more jaded America. Its protagonist floats through life with a casual, sloshing mentality, externalizing his sloshing headspace in cluttered bungalows and colorific public spaces, shot by DP Benoit Debie with psychedelic clarity. Even when he’s caught up in violent or lethal situations, he treats them with a blithe, oblivious attitude; when one of his sex partners falls off a yacht and drowns, Moondog laughs it off as a “flesh wound.”
But the movie isn’t out to condone Moondog’s hedonistic lifestyle. Rather, it’s a cartographer of hedonic decline, charting baby boomers and Gen Xers’ slide into the id—and Florida’s enticing allure as a utopia of leisure. The Beach Bum’s bevy of only-in-Florida characters—including Lingerie, a weed smuggler; Flicker, an amphetamine robber; and Captain Wack, a cash-only dolphin tour guide with a cocaine-snorting parrot—help sustain its picaresque momentum. Each of them delivers over-the-top performances, turning up the volume on their characters’ turnt up personalities.