SXSW 2019 – Review: THE BEACH BUM Is A Love Letter To Stoner Comedy

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Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) in THE BEACH BUM. Courtesy of NEON and VICE.

The Beach Bum is the newest film from fan-favorite director Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers). The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as Moondog, a stoner and rebel who wanders through life without any regard for rules. It made its debut at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

This film is definitely far more palatable than many of Korine’s other movie, mainly because it has a slightly more cohesive narrative. The film actually has a plot, and while the movie does lose track of this at times (in a way that is representative of the way that the protagonist loses track of life), it is much more interesting because the arc has a clear beginning and end.

That being said, the overall message of the film does become clear early on, and it isn’t exactly positive. The movie seems like it is trying to encourage people to sit back and enjoy their lives without paying attention to consequences. Although the level to which the shenanigans are presented is over-the-top, the lifestyle still isn’t one to which people should aspire.

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Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) in THE BEACH BUM. Courtesy of NEON and VICE.

A significant part of what makes the film work well is the extremely effective way in which the characters were written. The protagonist, Moondog, is a great example of a Byronic hero and is very compelling as a result. The supporting characters in the movie aren’t as well-developed as the protagonist, but they are still interesting and do a great job of complementing him.

Another thing that worked quite well about the film was its humor. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments throughout, driven by both the charisma of the actors and the situations in which you find themselves. This movie is the ultimate love letter to the stoner comedy in a way that also deconstructs the genre. Honestly, if you don’t find the film to be hilarious, you likely won’t enjoy it because it doesn’t have very much else to offer.

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Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) and Lingerie (Snoop Dogg) in THE BEACH BUM. Courtesy of NEON and VICE.

The actors all do an excellent job in their roles. Matthew McConaughey does an excellent job of capturing the essence of the stoner lead a la The Dude. The supporting cast is great too, each actor having their own segment in which they can shine. The biggest standout is Martin Lawrence, who returned from semi-retirement to deliver one of the most hilarious performances of his career. Snoop Dogg is also quite funny in his supporting role.

In technical terms, the movie is quite strong. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, with a lot of great shots showcasing the natural beauty of the film’s locations. The editing is also quite interesting, defying convention in typical Korine fashion. The most impressive part of the execution, though, is the soundtrack, which is filled with excellent songs that match the tone of the movie quite well.

Overall, The Beach Bum was a surprisingly well-made and enjoyable film. It is definitely more accessible than Korine’s other work, but is still won’t be for everyone.

The Beach Bum debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. It opens in theaters March 29.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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