By Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
Another all-star cast has created another cinematic disappointment. The Beach Bum explores the life of someone who lives by his own rules but that is all it seems to bring. Scenes move from party to party with little context that makes the film seem more like an experience rather than a story. It fails to go in depth which makes it difficult to be invested. This party film was directed by Harmony Korine who’s known for creating films such as Spring Breakers. The Beach Bum is similar, essentially serving as a spectacle for what the high life in Florida looks like. It’s obvious that this took precedence over telling an actual story.
Moondog, played by award winning actor Matthew McConaughey, is a notorious middle-aged party animal who roams around the Florida Keys area. Throughout his late night escapades, he gets wasted in bars, smokes marijuana constantly and miraculously seduces many women. When he’s not doing that, he’s lounging on a row boat without a care in the world. Shockingly enough, his wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) calls him back to his mansion in Miami for his daughter’s wedding. He returns home and continues to partake in his daily escapades, just now accompanied by his wife. He’s wasted during his daughter’s wedding and continues to humiliate the new couple, illustrating that the destructive drunk is incredibly selfish.
Afterwards, Moondog and Minnie take their drunken escapade on the road. They cause an accident which eventually leads to Minnie’s death. After this, her will is uncovered which explicitly stated that Moondog could not inherit any of her possessions, leaving him bound to the lifestyle that he is so attracted to. After being kicked to the curb, Moondog will need a little help from his array of friends who are almost as peculiar as him.
The film’s main character, Moondog, is an acclaimed poet who is loved by many due to his way with words and his unique and unstable lifestyle. McConaughey is immersed in the role, along with his accompaniments Snoop Dogg and Jonah Hill, who are his closest partners. McConaughey’s performance was sporadic and convincing, but unfortunately that’s all it has going for it. While McConaughey portrays a confident, stud-minded drunk and stoner, that’s the extent of his character.
Throughout the film, we see Moondog stumble through each dilemma he’s thrown into and he never really struggles to get out of them. He either uses his friends or his charisma to escape dire situations. The audience never sees him fail, so when he ultimately achieves his goal, it doesn’t feel earned. His achievement is also not satisfying since Moondog is an incredibly unlikable character with few redeeming qualities.
What The Beach Bum is really missing is any sense of internal or external conflict, even though the film has plenty of opportunities to implement it. This makes Moondog an unsympathetic character, since we never see him experience any low points.
One of the most notable examples is when his wife dies in the hospital, essentially in Moondog’s arms. This event could have caused an emotional conflict since he was basically responsible for her death. However, the film keeps going and he is able to continue with his adventures, seemingly unaffected by the tragedy.
This trend continues throughout the film, including an instant escape from rehab thanks to Zac Efron. His charisma and poetry can get him out of any situation. There’s some dialogue that comments on this, but whoever defends Moondog usually comments that he’s “a genius” and his uniqueness is why he has gotten away with so many things. This includes Minnie’s sincere love for him, even though she knows that he is sleeping with multiple other people when he’s not at home.
Overall, it seems that the cast enjoyed creating the film. However, their series of experiences doesn’t really translate into an actual cinematic story. It merely serves as a spectacle for an unrealistic lifestyle.
While McConaughey delivers a performance appropriate for the role, his lack of conflict and development make his character forgettable. This character’s biopic has the flare, but he himself does not have the essential depth that a memorable story requires.