Movie: The Beach Bum
My Rating: 3 stars
What a strange movie. Watching it felt like being trapped inside one of Matthew McConaughey’s fever dreams. That’s probably the vibe that director Harmony Korine was going for. He always likes to create an aura of unsettling chaos in his films. And, this one follows Matthew McConaughey—a drunken beach bum—as he staggers through his intoxicated existence in Key West with the rest of the shiftless bottom feeders. (The role he was born to play!) But, Korine takes the bedlam one step further in this film. Instead of simply watching the pandemonium unfold, he welcomes the audience inside the experience. The aesthetics, and colors, and utter nonsense in this film actually make the viewer feel just as impaired as the characters. It’s quite the feat.
And, now that I’ve praised Harmony Korine’s well-deserved artistic accomplishment, I am now free to tell you that that being immersed in this sort of madness isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. Fascinating, yes. But, it will wear you down if you let it. (And yes, yes, I know that’s the point). But, I’m not really a fan of movies where you watch the characters ruin their lives with a series of bad decisions. And, this is definitely a movie about a guy who could make better choices. But, as long as you’re prepared for a bit of misery, you should be fine watching this film. Because, when I weigh the good against the bad, I ultimately come up with a net positive. And, I “enjoyed” this movie. As much as I dislike watching tragedies unfold, I love some good absurdist humor. And, this movie is full to the brim of insane, confusing spectacles. (Snoop Dogg makes an appearance as a clergyman named Lingerie). And, Matthew McConaughey’s outfits steal the show.
All things considered, I do recommend this movie . . . as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. Harmony Korine’s films aren’t for beginners, or casual movie watchers. (Read: not for families). Of course, his more recent works have been a lot less bleak than his early stuff. Korine’s movies are all definitely dark. But, at least this film and the previous one, Spring Breakers, are dark comedies. (Pitch black, yes, but ultimately comedic). And, that extra dose of levity really goes a long way toward making the dark stuff more palatable.