The Beach Bum

No Caution


02 April 2019| Comments Off on The Beach Bum     by Sean Chavel


“Alright, Alright, Alright,” is not something Matthew McConaughey says in his new anything flies avante-garde comedy The Beach Bum. McConaughey goes full method actor and makes his own special stoned creation Moondog, a one-time author and poet who has gone blitzed out since in the Florida Keys and has his own epigrams and singular philosophy of living even if it’s an incoherent philosophy. His very sexy wife (Isla Fisher) has a lover on the side and a thirty million dollar mansion. She’s the rich one, some person says to Moondog at one point. He loves her, even when he’s not by her she’s some kind of stoned reverie. But he connects with her when Moondog is called up to attend his daughter’s wedding. Very early on, during Moondog’s visit, this Harmony Korine comedy has the funniest cunnilingus scene ever put on film. It’s funny in a number of ways, and one of the reasons it’s riotously funny is how on-going it is.

Why am I leading off this way to describe the film? Because this is no ordinary comedy, this weird comedy is a free association free for all by experimental wunderkind Korine (“Gummo,” “Spring Breakers”). Snoop Dog, Jimmy Buffett, Jonah Hill, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence pop up spontaneously and disappear without warning. (Sometimes McConaughey wears women’s clothing without warning.) “Bum” has a very scattered, often elliptical editing style and often has the feeling that is shot raw like a home movie – hence, better effort to catch the lights and night fever of Florida party life. If you love avante-garde cinematography, you have to appreciate this film.

Anyway, this is the kind of film where you see a bombed out Moondog in the first scene and he finds a kitten, and you think for a second, this is a movie where a freeloader will gain some responsibility by taking over a pet that will calm him. I cannot quite remember just how fast the kitten is forgotten.

This is the kind of film where you get a persuasively real courtroom scene, and yet it’s the funniest courtroom scene that’s ever been put on film because Moondog so obliviously disregards the court’s rules, social norms, and doesn’t get that the judge is looking out for his best interests. Later, after Moondog has absconded from his sentence, he has to lay low and yet him and his new buddy are incapable of doing that. His buddy is something of a sociopath.

Moondog gets into the dolphin watching tourist business with another buddy. On an outing, Moondog is blissfully unaware how square the family is that he’s supposed to be entertaining. Moondog reigns-in his worst instincts, and yet he is not aware that is not enough. His attempt at good showmanship comes across as lewd. Also, Moondog and his buddy are so distracted by their own loutishness that they do not see the dolphins in the ocean are instead sharks.

Yet still, I’ve barely touched up what a wildly vulgar and debauched this film is. There are copious bare breasts – I just wanted to add real quick, that are some of the characters’ party yachts, there are Jacuzzis, marijuana pipes, guitars, naked women. Korine packs the frame in and respects the mise en scene, in case you were concerned.

More than some audiences will complain there isn’t enough of a plot in “Bum,” and there is something that happens incidentally that gives it some narrative driving force. But make no mistake. Nothing really matters but what’s happening in the moment during “Bum.” It is rib-tickling to see McConaughey so deep into character during all of this that we have to remind ourselves there is a more sober actor beneath this façade. Johnny Depp was believably blasted during “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas,” but this movie isn’t like that one – it’s hedonistic, but joyful and happy-go-lucky even when things go to sh*t. That’s how I often felt.

Then, the last several minutes and ending of “Bum” really drove me up the wall. Irresponsibility is one thing, but Witlessness is another. I’m sure Moondog will be fine after the movie is over. He doesn’t have a care in the world, is what I was about to say. So what I really should say is: He cares really about so many people, and they about him, that they will all find a way to keep living large.

95 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Bully” (2001); “Spring Breakers” (2013); “This is the End” (2013); “Inherent Vice” (2014).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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