Movie Review: The Beach Bum

Written by Tony Pierce. This post previously appeared on Busblog.

Took [my girlfriend] Amber to see “The Beach Bum” last night. She hadn’t seen any of Harmony Korine’s films (Gummo, Spring Breakers, Julien Donkey Boy), but I had and loved him.

I love how free his characters are, how complicated he makes them. Equal parts disgusting and wild, selfish and unconscious. Do they have feelings? Do feelings limit us? Are morals important? Should we push tuba players into the sea? should we kill cats and sell them to the grocer? Is drinking and driving bad?

He pushes all the buttons about sex drugs and rock in this one. Friendship. marriage. even crossdressing. It’s a wild journey through the vessel of Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey, who goes through ups and downs, but the low points don’t affect them the same way it would you and me. Which is inspirational to a point, but unbelievable. This is a man who can be homeless, live among the poorest, and then ride in a giant yacht with Snoop Dogg and have exactly the same experiences.

Isn’t that what we should all aspire to? Isn’t that how life should be?

Harmony’s extremes have always included neon colors and boozing and guns and drugs and music (an excellent array here from The Cure to Jimmy Buffet to many sounds of the 70s) and random topless women.

It can be startling to endure 90 minutes of debauchery from a character who you are trying to determine whether you like or not. He is a poet. Or at least he thinks he is. His agent, played poorly by the usually talented Jonah Hill, thinks he’s a great writer. In fact, everyone, including the judge who is deciding whether or not to send him to jail, thinks he’s hugely talented. But is he? (yes). And is that enough to let him get away with acting like a spoiled brat? (maybe).

When the film was over and people were still in their seats, Amber, who is also a free spirit, said loudly, “THAT WAS THE WORST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN.”

As we walked out, we passed a group. From it emerged a voice that said, “THAT SUCKED. I HATED IT.” It was a mom with a huge scowl on her face. “WE WASTED SO MUCH MONEY AND TIME ON THAT!” She marched away from the group. I tried to console her by saying Amber agreed with her. But that didn’t turn her frown upside-down. She clomped her way into the ladies room, her wildly dressed daughters trying to catch up.

“Well, I liked it.” I told them.

They said, “We did too.”

I said, “I couldn’t wait to see it.”

“SAME!” they said.

I asked, “Have you seen Gummo?”

They said, “OMG YES!”

Then Amber said, “Oh, so i guess I’m the mom and you relate to the hot young chicks. Nothing has changed.”

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