"Rarely have I been so utterly captivated by a movie that has so little artistic or aesthetic quality"

A Controversial But Entertaining Drug Dramady

(041519) Beach Bum is an extremely controversial and highly entertaining stoner dramedy. It stars Matthew McConaughey, and it was well directed by the maverick Indy film maker, Harmony Korine, who tends to polarize critics and repel mainstream film audiences. Although most viewers would be probably be utterly revolted by the film, I found myself carried away by its anarchic momentum.

This film reminded me of Buffalo 66, because it seems like it was made up by the film makers as it went along which corresponds perfectly to the main character’s spontaneous seize-the day-lifestyle. As I left the film I was tempted to scream out “Future cult classic.”

Beach Bum has gotten mostly mixed and terrible reviews, and it had the lowest ever opening weekend gross of any film starring Matthew McConaughey. The film might be bombing because it is too experimental for Matthew McConaughey fans and too conventional for Korine aficionados.

Matthew McConaughey has had his share of both box office/aesthetic triumphs including Dazed and Confused (1993), A Time to Kill (1996), Amistad (1997), Contact (1997), Killer Joe (2011), Mud (2012), Magic Mike (2012),
Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), and Interstellar (2014).
His all-time nadir was probably one of first films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994). That film was so bad that several members of the film’s cast (they were nobodies who later became stars) tried to legally prevent its rerelease.

Harmony Korine is a cult director who did Gummo (which got a whopping 26% approval on Rotten Tomatoes), Trash Humpers, and my favorite of his films, Julian Donkey Boy, which I consider a masterpiece of amateurishness.

His biggest financial success was the recent Spring Breakers (2012) which actually made good use of Selena Gomez, but his biggest critical success was Kids (which he only scripted) which was nominated for several Independent Spirit awards. His most transgressive work was his 1998 film The Diary of Anne Frank Pt II, which features kids in satanic apparel throwing up on a Bible, and a man in black-face dancing and singing My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean. If you go see it you might want to leave the kids at home.

Korine was heavily influenced by both the cinema of transgression (which often shows disgusting acts that are too graphic for most film makers to use) and mumble core (which features naturalistic acting and long, rambling conversations about trivial subjects that most audience members would consider to be boring or pointless.) In Beach Bum about 10 minutes is spent on a conversation between two stoned men on the TV series Flipper.

Beach Bum revolves around the exploits of Moondog, a stoner writer/drifter/adventurer/alcoholic who spends most of his life too out of it to process what is going on around him. In one scene, Moondog calmly watches as a shark eats off his friend’s limb then he congratulates his dying friend because he thinks it is a great gag.

Moondog is a kind of a third rate Hunter S Thompson or bargain basement Charles Bukowski. He writes some of the worst verse I have ever heard, which he frequently recites in front of adoring audiences. He thinks he is a genius, and remarkably everyone around him seems to share that opinion.
Moondog’s intentionally dreadful poetry is thematically and structurally similar to Harmony Korine’s own verse, but Korine’s poetry is much more interesting. Check out Korine’s book, A Crackup at the Race Riots which is being sold at some of the theatres showing the film. I immediately devoured the whole thing right after I saw the film, and it is great fun.

Like our current president, Moondog seems to have no idea what is appropriate subject matter for polite conversation for a person in a civilized society. When he encounters a nice family of tourists, he talks endlessly about the best places to see dolphin orgies while the kids cover their ears.

The irresponsible Moondog has spent a long time traveling, partying and having sex with multiple women (often at the same time). He eventually returns home for his daughter’s wedding (to a man he affectionately refers to as "limp d*ck". He almost ruins the wedding which is near the water, when he arrives late and then immediately pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair into the ocean as he announces, “That was my mother. Just kidding.”

His best friend, Lingerie (yes that is his name), who is played by rapper, Snoop Dogg (who is almost always entertaining on screen) officiates the wedding. Later on, Moondog is shocked to walk in on Lingerie having anal sex with his wife (which he quickly forgives which is understandable since he is a frequent philanderer).
His other best friend is the Florida retirement home rocker, Jimmy Buffet (playing himself). Moondog frequently joins Buffet onstage during his shows and does spoken word. This seems extremely appropriate because Moondog is like the lost character in the song, Margaretville, and if you dig beneath the surface, he too is a tragic disaster.

But when Moondog’s very wealthy wife (who is well played and sympathetically portrayed by Sacha Baron Coen’s real life wife, Isla Fisher) unexpectedly dies, Moondog is faced with a tough choice. According to the wife’s will, he must go to rehab, get off booze, and finish the novel he is working on or lose his part of the inheritance.

The film does not have a real plot in a conventional sense, and audience members can walk in on any part and be entertained (or in some cases disgusted.) I especially liked the scene where Moondog recites Baudelaire’s poetry in translation to non-comprehending homeless people. But eventually the film does have a bizarre payoff which will give some audience members a sense of closure.

With apologies to Nietzsche, this film shows that sometimes when you look into the abyss, it can actually elevate you. Rarely have I been so utterly captivated by a movie that has so little artistic merit or aesthetic quality. This goes against almost everything I usually think constitutes a good film. Yet when I left the theatre, I felt like anything could happen and that I could do anything. John Waters’s fans and Andy Warhol admirers should be especially thrilled to see this.

PS. The great German film maker, Werner Herzog, who is a big supporter of Korine and starred in Julian Donkey Boy, said he was especially moved by the bacon taped to the wall during the bathtub scene in Gummo. I cannot think of a higher recommendation. He also wrote a complimentary blurb for the back cover of A Crack Up at the Race Riots.

Written & Directed by:  Harmony Korine
Starring:   Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Jimmy Buffet
Released:  032919
Length:  95 minutes
Rating:   Rated R for some sexual content, nudity and language

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to

BEACH BUM ©  2019 Warner Brothers Pictures
Review © 2019 Alternate Reality, Inc.

Live Poetry Performance at the Art Colony at 2630 W. Fletcher on Saturday April 14 at 5-9 pm (spring 2019 kick-off show) FEATURING POETRY by Jocelyn Adjami, Kim Berez, Dave Gecic, and Bradley Last Name
hosted by Vittorio Carli

Plus SEE Vittorio Carli’s features at Phyllis’s Musical Inn at 1800 W. Division on May 8 and Paul Ryan’s Show at the Uptown Arts Center at 941 W. Lawrence Center on Friday, May 17 where he will recite film related poetry.