February is over! Welcome to March!
Now, the first two weeks of March is, traditionally, when most schools give their students a week off for Spring Break. I have a lot of good Spring Break memories and, to be honest, I’ve always kind of resented the fact that Spring Break is something that only schools do. To me, it should be like a national holiday where everything stops for a week and everyone hangs out at the beach for a few days.
Of course, this year’s Spring Break may be a bit of a disappointment, what with everyone freaking out about …. well, everything. That’s a shame but fear not! You may not be able to leave behind your fears long enough to go down to the beach but at least you can still watch movies about the beach, right? So, with that in mind, over the next two weeks, I will be reviewing some films for Spring Break!
It’s time for Spring Breakdown!
Let’s get things started with the 2019 film, The Beach Bum.
The beach bum of the title is an always stoned, alcoholic poet named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), who spends his time wandering around the Florida Keys. Moondog has been working on a book for several years and he’s a bit of a local celebrity. Everyone that he meets tends to like him, or at least they do until he ruins their lives. Moondog is irresponsible, immature, and apparently some sort of genius as well. Moondog is also extremely laid back. Even when he finds out that his wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), cheated on him with his best friend, a singer named Lingerie (Snoop Dogg), Moondog is okay with it. He’s always loved Minnie but he’s never had a problem cheating on her so why shouldn’t she do the same to him?
After Moondog shows up late for his daughter’s wedding and goes out of his way to make a scene, he goes for a drive with Minnie. Of course, since Moondog is drunk off his ass, he ends up crashing the car and killing his wife. In her will, Minnie leaves half of her fortune to their daughter, Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen). She leaves the other half to Moondog, with the stipulation that Moondog will only get the money after he finishes his book.
The rest of the film follows, in an episodic fashion, Moondog as he tries to finish his book and get his money. Along the way, he commits crimes, dabbles with various jobs, and spends time in jail and drug rehab. He meets a host of eccentric and destructive characters, almost all of who are the type of outsiders who seem as if they’re destined to eventually be the subject of a “Florida man” headline. For instance, Flicker (Zac Efron) is a pyromaniac. And Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence) hosts dolphin tours but, unfortunately, cannot tell the difference between a dolphin and a shark.
When The Beach Bum was first released in March of last year, it was eagerly anticipated because it was Harmony Korine’s first film since 2012’s Spring Breakers. Despite the fact that Spring Breakers and The Beach Bum both take place in Florida and feature a lot of beach action, the two films might as well be taking place in separate universes. The Beach Bum is as laid back as Spring Breakers was violent. If Spring Breakers was a film that seemed to be fueled by ecstasy and cocaine, The Beach Bum is a celebration of getting high and enjoying life. If Spring Breakers was all about being young, The Beach Bum is about growing old without giving up your individuality.
In many ways, The Beach Bum is the ultimate Matthew McConaughey film and how you react to the film will depend on how much tolerance you have for Matthew McConaughey at his most McConaugheyest. Indeed, if you like Moondog, it’ll probably be because you like Matthew McConaughey. As a character, Moondog is a jerk. He nearly ruins his daughter’s wedding. He drives drunk and kills his wife. He refuses to take responsibility for being a general fuck-up and, from what little we hear of his work, he appears to be a subpar poet as well. And yet, Matthew McConaughey brings enough of his own natural charm to the role that it’s tempting to forgive Moondog. You can understand why some people in the film are willing to tolerate him, even though he’s basically a pain in the ass to have around.
The Beach Bum is not a film for everyone. I appreciated Matthew McConaughey’s performance and I also appreciated the fact that Harmony Korine didn’t try to remake Spring Breakers. At the same time, the film was a bit too loosely constructed to really hold my interest and a little bit of Moondog goes a long way. I saw this film last year and I’ve really had no desire to rewatch it. That said, the cinematography frequently makes Florida looks like the most beautiful place on Earth and, regardless of what you may think about his poetry, at least Moondog just keeps on L-I-V-I-N, livin’.
Add to that, Moondog’s going to enjoy Spring Break, no doubt about it.