The Beach Bum is Carefully Made & Nuanced But I Didn’t Get The Point (Review)

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A friend of mine who is a Harmony Korine fan predicted that I would not like The Beach Bum but I thought I might like it.  After all, I absolutely didn’t want to see the Live Action Remake of Dumbo and after seeing the trailer, there was a good chance there could be all sorts of surfer fan service, so odds were good that there would be something in it for me.   And since I don’t feel like being wrong at all, I’m going to say that I loved The Beach Bum. I just need to find a way to explain why.

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Moondog is a fun-loving, pot-smoking, beer-drinking writer who lives life on his own terms in Florida. If he can put down the drugs for just one minute, he may finally be able to put his talent to good use and finish the next great American novel.

There are movies that are completely textbook with their plots and characters.  You can identify the hero, the villain, the sidekick and if given how far it is in the movie, what (approximately) is happening.   The Beach Bum was not one of those movies. In fact, as I kept watching, it seemed more and more like The Beach Bum was carefully steering away from recognizable genres, like a hipster demonstrating that he ‘doesn’t like labels’.  It worked, too. I honestly did not know what to think of The Beach Bum and kept looking for things to compare it to. There was a little Jack Sparrow in The Beach Bum. There was a little Ferris Bueller, too, except we were missing a whacky school principal and a vengeful little sister.

This is a movie about people who have had vastly different life experiences than I did.  Moondog was hopelessly irresponsible and while the other characters seemed charmed by him, I was not.   He’s like that guy at the bar who’s gotten way too drunk and you’re just waiting for the bouncer to notice and kick him out.   I kept waiting for ‘Reality’ (as I understand it) to assert itself and then he’d be in real trouble. The plot kept flirting with that idea many times and each time I’d think ‘ah, here we go’ but nothing ever came of it.  This would be fine if I could root for him, but honestly I couldn’t.

I have to say, this movie was beautiful.  Not just because Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron fan service (thank you) but also the whole all the locations – Snoop Dogg’s character’s house, the houseboat, the strange little street vendors.  The film was visually rich and all the little details were rendered out in exquisite detail. The performances were great too – I loved Jonah Hill in this and also Isla Fisher and Stefania LaVie Owen.  Moondog himself was also very nuanced, we really get the sense of a brilliant mind buried beneath unchecked hedonism and self indulgence.

So is The Beach Bum worth watching?  I don’t know, I guess so. Yes. I didn’t hate it.  It’s the exact opposite of the films I usually review – those entertaining shows that I forget as soon as the credits roll.  In the Beach Bum I found myself staring, bored, while the movie was actually playing and, afterwards, couldn’t stop analyzing.   But it was a little to hard to see the point in all of it. The Beach Bum probably works as a statement on how celebrities can get away with anything, or something like that.  And I was definitely envious – I wouldn’t last 5 minutes if I tried to get away with that stuff.

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