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  Beach Bum, The That's Great Poetry!
Year: 2019
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Stefania LaVie Owen, Martin Lawrence, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Jimmy Buffett, Donovan St V. Williams, David Bennett, Clinton Archambault, Joshua Rosen, Tonya Oliver, Cherie Arias, Ricardo Matallana
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) lives his life on and around the beach in Florida, making a fortune through his well-regarded poetry that he writes with a typewriter on his lap, usually out in the sunshine. However, he also has a very serious drug habit, where if he is not drinking gallons of alcohol every day he is smoking industrial amounts of marijuana: getting off his face is the most important part of his existence, and he dedicates himself to it like a man possessed. A very stoned man possessed. Then his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) calls him from the mansion they no longer share to tell him to get over there to attend the wedding of his daughter Heather (Stefanie LaVie Owen)...

This event in his life seems to trigger ever-more outlandish adventures, almost as if what we were watching was the wish-fulfilment of a man with a drugs problem so intense that he cannot work out where reality ends and his fantasy begins, but for many, that would be the appeal of a particularly wayward work which barely made half of its tiny budget back when it was released in theatres. Coming off the back of Serenity, McConaughey's McConaughaissance would appear to be well and truly over, and some extremely eccentric choices began to line up; in a way, this was even more interesting for star spotters than his far more respectable, occasionally Oscar-winning, endeavours.

The secret of why so many were turned off by the mammoth self-indulgence on display could be traced to one person, the man who scripted and directed, Harmony Korine. We're talking about a director who tried to make a comedy film where he went up to complete strangers and started fights with them: that he failed may be a blessing, but it could also be his legacy was dictated by his debut at the helm, Gummo, setting out his rambling technique where being in the moment scene by scene was far more important that threading together a narrative. That was assuredly the format here, a would-be Charles Bukowski-style effort which starred a man with matinee idol good looks.

Though that famed McConaughey washboard stomach was rather more convex than usual, and he was hidden under straggly hair and patchy beard, there was no getting away from his actorly charisma which merely rendered this a more bizarre experience than it would have done otherwise. Though the suspicion that this was what the star was like during his wilderness years (cue naked bongo playing reference) served to fuel the interest in seeing out The Beach Bum to its conclusion, and rarely was a film more aptly titled. Really, by this stage it was difficult to tell if Korine was an actual arthouse director, or a prankster who made pseudo-meaningful belches of creativity that were comparable to making a Jackass compilation only intended to be taken in as a sincere drama over a comedy.

That said, there were signs that Korine wanted to have the audience laughing at Moondog's antics, no matter how undisciplined the overall effect came across. Frequently preposterous, his adventures ranged from drunkenly killing one of those closest to him in a road accident - hilarious, right? - which leads him to rehab where he breaks out with Zac Efron (who could easily have taken his role a few years down the line). In fact, there were a few examples of stunt casting, with Snoop Dogg as himself, basically, and Jonah Hill as Moondog's agent musing it's great to be rich since you can treat people as badly as you want, though the point here appeared to be some folks are blessed in a universe that allows them to behave terribly with no real consequences to their buzz. Then again, the nagging feeling that we were watching the imagination of a knocked-out protagonist never left the film, especially when Martin Lawrence gets his foot bitten off by a shark, or Moondog wins the Pulitzer Prize while dressed as a woman. Frequently confounding, but oddly quite funny in places, and obviously for a specialised audience of the tolerant. Music by John Debney.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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