The Beach Bum
|The Beach Bum|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Harmony Korine|
|Written by||Harmony Korine|
|Music by||John Debney|
|Box office||$4 million|
The Beach Bum is a 2019 American stoner comedy film written and directed by Harmony Korine. The plot follows the adventures of Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), a rebellious burnout who only knows how to live life by his own rules. Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Jimmy Buffett, Martin Lawrence and Jonah Hill also star.
The Beach Bum had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 9, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on March 29, 2019, by Neon. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with some calling it "joyous" and others describing it as an "epic goof," though McConaughey's performance received near-universal praise.
Poetry writer Moondog lives a hedonistic and pseudo-nomadic lifestyle in and around the Florida Keys while slowly working on his new book and enjoying life as a local legend despite the common opinion that he is past his prime. His escapades are funded by his wealthy wife Minnie and to the disapproval of their soon-to-wed daughter Heather and his agent Lewis. Moondog frequently flirts and cheats with several women he meets on his journeys while Minnie is in a passionate affair with Moondog's friend and singer Lingerie.
After arriving late to Heather's wedding in Miami, Moondog gropes the groom, Frank, in front of the audience. Later, during a talk about Moondog’s crude behavior, Minnie confesses her affair to her daughter (which Moondog has no knowledge of). Meanwhile, Moondog and Lingerie smoke cannabis and Lingerie shows Moondog a potent strain of cannabis endemic to an isolated pond in Jamaica which he claims to be responsible for his success.
During the reception, Moondog smooths things over with Heather and Frank while they cut the cake. He later witnesses Minnie and Lingerie kissing and, in shock, swims in a fountain and then runs off. Minnie tracks down Moondog at a local bar and the two enjoy a night of intoxicated karaoke, dancing and driving, culminating in a car accident. Moondog escapes with minor injuries but Minnie dies in the hospital shortly after.
In Minnie's will, half of the estate goes to Heather while Moondog's half is frozen and placed under Heather’s control, which she will grant him once he proves he can mature and finish his novel. In retaliation, and due to Lewis’ refusal to book seminars for Moondog due to his work ethic, Moondog recruits several homeless people and trashes Minnie's mansion. To avoid prison time, he agrees to a year of rehabilitation but breaks out of the facility with a pyromaniac named Flicker. The two later part ways as Moondog makes his way back to Miami.
He bumps into an old friend and alleged Vietnam veteran dubbed Captain Wack, who offers Moondog an opportunity to co-captain dolphin tours around the outer Keys. However, Wack decides to swim with the dolphins during a tour before realizing too late that they are sharks, who sever his foot and put an end to Moondog and Wack’s brief partnership. Now back in Miami and wanted by the law, Moondog reconnects with Lingerie, who confesses to Moondog about his affair with Minnie but claims Minnie truly loved Moondog; the revelations provoke little reaction from Moondog. After Lingerie and Jimmy Buffett tell Moondog about a respective dream and experience the two had concerning crossdressing to avoid detection, Moondog begins to do just that. The police eventually bear down on Lingerie’s property, prompting Moondog to flee to Key West with Lingerie’s help and an undisclosed amount of the Jamaican weed.
Inspired, Moondog completes his book, a poetic memoir titled "The Beach Bum". The book is universally lauded and nets Moondog a Pulitzer Prize. A newly-divorced Heather is impressed with her father's strides and unfreezes his inheritance, which Moondog demands to be in physical cash and placed on a large sailboat. During a party to celebrate his wealth, Moondog lights the money on fire which triggers several fireworks and causes an explosion. Moondog survives unscathed but the crowd is too concerned with the raining money to care as he drifts away while on a boat.
- Matthew McConaughey as Moondog
- Isla Fisher as Minnie, Moondog's wife
- Snoop Dogg as Lingerie ("Rie"), an R&B singer
- Zac Efron as Flicker, a drug rehabilitation patient
- Jonah Hill as Lewis, Moondog's agent
- Stefania LaVie Owen as Heather, Moondog's daughter
- Martin Lawrence as Captain Wack, a dolphin tour guide
- Joshua Ritter as Frank (nicknamed "Limp Dick"), Heather's fiancé
- Jimmy Buffett as himself
- Bertie Higgins as himself
Following the release of Spring Breakers and time spent living in Florida, writer-director Harmony Korine penned The Beach Bum, which is "based loosely on a set of characters he was hanging out with in the Keys." Journalist Zach Baron noted Korine "wrote the film swiftly, and then, as he did with Spring Breakers, Korine cast a mix of well-known actors," such as Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, Jimmy Buffett, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher — "and real-life Florida denizens."
Speaking about the connection between the cast of Hollywood stars and the local grit of Florida, Korine said, "I like when they meet in the middle [...] Like when all the secondary characters, and all the locations, all the color, the sky, everything, it affects the main roles in a way. It's almost like a chemical reaction.” McConaughey described the character of Moondog as "a verb. A folk poet. A character in a Bob Dylan song dancing through life's pleasure and pain knowing every interaction is another 'note' in the tune of his life." Similarly, Korine described the protagonist as a man that "lives for the second. There's no self-censor. He's just a sensualist. Whatever feels good, he just acts on it. So he does good, and he does bad."
Principal photography began in November 2017. Throughout the filming process, the cast brought their own creative direction to their characters. Snoop Dogg decided that rather than play himself, as written in Korine's script, he needed to take on a new character.
Additional strange inspiration came to Korine, as while eating a panini sandwich, the director thought that the pattern would "look good on Zac's face." The quote later went viral, when New Yorker columnist Lauren Leibowitz tweeted about the design for Efron's iconic beard. While appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, McConaughey recounted how Snoop Dogg swapped out fake prop marijuana with "Snoop Weed." McConaughey said of the experience "the next nine hours were a whole lot of fun, but I don't believe we used one word in the English language."
In the United States and Canada, The Beach Bum was released alongside Dumbo and Unplanned, and was projected to gross $2–4 million from 1,015 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $650,000 on its first day, including $200,000 from Thursday night previews. It ended up debuting to just $1.8 million, the lowest wide opening of McConaughey's career.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 52% based on 83 reviews, with an average rating of 5.17/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The role of a lifetime for Matthew McConaughey, The Beach Bum is set apart by Harmony Korine's distinctive style, but that isn't always enough to offset the unfocused story." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 55 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an average 2.5 out of 5 stars and a 36% "definite recommend".
Rolling Stone's David Fear wrote, "Matthew McConaughey goes full 'just keep livin'' in this insane ode to fear, loathing and the art of the permanent happy hour." Critic Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com noted "the shaggy dog nature of this film, one that mimics its protagonist's neverending belief that everything is just gonna be all right, all right becomes almost transcendent... The Beach Bum works by never losing its tonal statement that all that really matters is what matters to you...man." A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a B−, noting how, "there’s little plot and even less in the way of conflict... There’s a collage quality to Korine’s filmmaking—a sense that he’s always just collecting moments, cobbling together scenes from the endless supply of improvised festivity that presumably erupted on set".
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