The Beach Bum

The Beach Bum – REVIEW

November 14, 2019
1 min read
The Beach Bum REVIEW


The Beach Bum

Director: Harmony Korine

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Martin Lawrence, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill

Running time: 95 mins

Censor: R16, Drug use, sex scenes & offensive language

Feel like watching an obnoxious stoner film that blows self-indulgence in your face? You’ve come to the right place, writes TOBY WOOLLASTON

The Beach Bum

Are we witnessing the end of the McConaissance? If The Beach Bum is any indication then we might be. Writer/director Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers) has dragged Matthew McConaughey through a round of Korine’s favourite topic: sex, drugs, and… well, that’s about it.

To be fair, a loose, wise-cracking ‘bum’ who lives by his own rules is just the kind of role McConaughey was destined to play and, unsurprisingly, he is by far the best thing about this film.

A tale of hedonism and misbehaviour, The Beach Bum is big on style and small on plot. Moondog (McConaughey) is a celebrated but burnt-out poet living in the sun-drenched environs of the Florida Keys. Rich and popular, he’s hell-bent on living out the rest of his life within the drug-addled haze of his kitsch hovel. The only catch: his estranged wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), holds the purse strings and tasks him with finishing his next book in order to access the remainder of his wealth.

The Beach Bum

That’s about as far as the plot complexities go, the film opting instead to stumble through a potpourri of episodic (but colourful) scenes. A conveyor-belt of big names rolls past. Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Snoop Dogg, Martin Lawrence and more line up to have a holiday in Florida’s sun at the studio’s expense, or have a crack at ruining their careers… or both, hard to tell.

It’s not all bad. There are some interesting formal flourishes, Korine’s woozy style plays cute with some unconventional editing, with single conversations playing out seamlessly across multiple scenes. It’s clever stuff, but deft editing and attractive cinematography can only go so far.

The Beach Bum

Ultimately, it’s difficult to admire a film that, while not outright glorifying abhorrent self-indulgence, does nothing to vilify it either. In one scene Jonah Hill seems to sum up the film’s moral compass: “You know what I like the most about being rich? You can just be horrible to people and they just have to take it.” The glass-half-full in me says that Korine is trying to be intentionally provocative; that there’s a clever subtext and that it’s a sarcastic stab at Trumpism, or some other gem of wisdom deep within its hazy bowels.

But really, I just found this film too annoying and obnoxious to care.

* The Beach Bum opens in NZ theatres Thursday, November 14.


Toby is currently a film reviewer for the New Zealand Herald and NZME’s regional media. A film enthusiast since Alien made him shit his pants as a nine-year-old, Toby recently completed a Masters thesis on the phenomenology of the cinema of Darren Aronofsky. So he is well qualified to tell you that phenomenology is a load of boring bollocks… but Aronofsky is quite interesting.

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