The Beach Bum (2019)

The Beach Bum (2019) Cover

At this stage in my life I just simply wasn’t prepared for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas through Prozac tinted lenses, and so The Beach Bum took me by surprise. That is just as compelling as it sounds as writer/director Harmony Korine dives into some uncomfortable space, without judgment, along a path driven entirely by emotion.

The Beach Bum is the story of a talented writer, Moondog, who married into extreme wealth who disposes of everything in his life of value with complete carelessness via continuous drunken benders. I cannot help but feel that taking the complete reckless lack of consideration for the human condition or real needs that comes with extreme luxury is deeply unpleasant to experience even when dressed it in the trappings of poverty.

Deeply unpleasant… but not wholly without merit.

It’s difficult to say what message you’re supposed to walk away from The Beach Bum with. Harmony Korine has composed a work that works on a couple of layers. The most immediate and visible layer is the nihilistic joy that Moondog enjoys as he lives a life without want, need, or direction even as he burns down the world around him. Astute viewers will take note of the toll which Moondog’s life extracts from all of those around him.

The core of this work is the performance delivered by Matthew McConaughey as Moondog, which is every bit as engrossing as the blaze that Moondog sets to his world. There are so many other talented performances here, but it is McConaughey who drives this story in a way that few actors could. It is his performance that makes such a painful journey into an enjoyable experience.

I say that The Beach Bum is a good film in that it is good because it is difficult to get out of your head after you’ve watched it. It is nihilism at its most beautiful. It is the nihilism you experience in a moment of crisis when the whole world is on your shoulders with such profound force that the realization that none of it matters allows you to feel as though you could fly. Sometimes you need that, but even that brief respite comes at the expense of those around you and those who support you.

And for all of those reasons, it is also tragically disagreeable. I can’t tell you if you should or shouldn’t see The Beach Bum, only that watching it takes a toll on you. It has moments that are entertaining. Moments that are horrific. It is hedonistic and nihilistic. If that’s your thing you may love it, and if it isn’t… this is the most palatable distillation of those ideals.

Final Verdict:A film that is absolutely good, I just can't say whether or not you'll enjoy it.
Rating:B-