Harmony Korine has energy in cinema like no other, an auteur who loves to colourise characters and atmospheres. “(The) inbreds, rednecks, juveniles, limp dicks” is what’s on the menu in his latest film, The Beach Bum. This line quoted fabulously by Moondog, played by Matthew McConaughey. Moondog is a poet, drug dealer and part time crook.
The Beach Bum premiered at SXSW in March 2019 and travelled to the likes of the Melbourne and Sydney Film Festival in Australia. But let’s be honest, Korine’s filmography is pretty divisive.
Inspired by certain characters Korine came into contact with whilst living in Keys (Florida), you meet the weird and wonderful burnouts depicted by Korine. You also come into contact with a lot of well-known actors who set the standard high, on the performance scale. While they measure up accordingly this is a narrative that has been curated to fit McConaughey’s bravado and persona. Making it hard to tell if McConaughey is taking the piss or actually acting.
The Beach Bum follows McCaughey as a rambling misfit who has an open relationship with fluffy, boujee Minnie played by lsla Fisher. Carrying a PBR tallboy or occasionally a white kitten, McConaughey embodies ‘the Dude’ (The Big Lebowski) a caricature of himself giving us his iconic southern drawl. After predetermined events take place it is up to Moondog to lead the way and complete his book of poems.
Taking a wardrobe point of view, The Beach Bum has a strong aesthetic in fashion and a major shout out must go to costume designer Heidi Bivens. Bivens worked on Korine’s Spring Breakers and another fashionably gromit film, Mid 90, directed by McConaughey’s co-star Johan Hill. Making this experience of The Beach Bum pleasurable, but somewhat recycled from Korine. Obviously it is quite ironic viewing Moondog’s vibe. He is a bleached blonde fella who wears Hawaiian or flame button down shirts (very Guy Fieri). It is on-trend and accurate to the character but after a while characters like Jonah Hill’s Lewis, a camp Southern agent, who wears pimped out golf garp or Zac Efron’s nu-metal Flicker make you come to realise that The Beach Bum is OTT making it too much of a fashion conscious statement. It does come across like you are uncovering a new subculture presented by Vice or watching an ironic runaway show. You are often distracted.
Compared to Korine’s Spring Breakers, which also uses fashion but not as a statement, it was an expression. This is a realisation that came afterwards. Distantly remembering, when leaving the cinema, Spring Breakers having a wow factor and innovative film experience. You really go on a journey through the intimate camera work, apparel and music. The pastels, ski masks and unicorns became a believable world.
However, in The Beach Bum you are always outside observing these characters, which paired with the picturesque Florida’s landscape. It does look like you are watching a live action postcard. Although Korine used cinematographer Benoît Debie who worked on Spring Breakers, as a spectator you do not go on the same intimate trip in The Beach Bum.
To be fair The Beach Bum is enjoyable and weird and what you would expect from Korine, but perhaps I know what to expect now. Either way, The Beach Bum is asking me again and again to view this film with irony.
Comedy | USA, 2019 | 18 | 25th October 2019 (UK Cinema) 30th October 2019 (Digital Download) | Blue Finch Film Releasing | Dir.Harmony Korine | Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill