Antun Kovacevic’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #9/31 for May Scavenger Hunt #50!
I feel like a have to mention this first. Don’t expect from this film to have a groundbreaking or too complicated plot, it barely has the plot at all. It follows the main characters life and his reactions to certain events in the film. If you’re looking for a film that has a normal structure, you’ll be extremely disappointed. The film doesn't choose to focus on the plot, there is the main goal for our character for sure, but film mainly focuses on his philosophy about life. I’ll try to explain as best as I can, why I loved this film so much. This will be more an analysis that the typical review, so there will be some spoilers which I’ll mark in the text, but be warned.
So let’s start with the easy stuff first. It’s one of the funniest films I have seen in a while. There’s a lot of physical comedy in the film, a lot more than I thought there would be. That type of comedy relies particularly on Matthew McConaughey and his performance. He’s truly fantastic in this film, I have never seen anything like this from him, and I would say that this is one of the better performances he gave in his career. It’s really fun to follow Moondog in his adventures. If you don’t find that amusing, or you don’t find his character interesting, that’s probably going to be a breaking point for a lot of people. In my showing in a theatre some people walked out in the middle of the film, and some laughed hysterically throughout the film. In my opinion, it’s a key point to find Moondog interesting character if you want to like this film. Otherwise, you’ll be bored as hell throughout the film. I personally was hooked from the first scene onto his character. Except for McConaughey, other cast members are fantastic as well. I only wish they didn't show us in the trailers and posters some of the characters that are appearing briefly throughout the film. It would be a great surprise to see some of the supporting cast without knowing they are in the film. I liked how this isn’t a typical stoner comedy. Yes, it’s marketed that way, and yes that’s a huge part of the film. Weed, alcohol, and drugs appear in a like 95 percent of the film, and that’s crazy, but also there are some deeper meanings in the film. For example, I found a philosophy behind Moondog’s character fascinating. I didn’t expect anything like that at all before going into this film. So, let’s talk about Moondog.
I found his approach to life, and his philosophy in general very intriguing. Like Isla Fisher’s character said in the film: Moondog is from another dimension, he’s special. We as an audience should treat him like that as well. He’s not our ordinary guy, who have to work 8 hours daily, and worry about some meaningless little troubles in life that comes and goes away. He exists in a totally different way than the rest of us. He just lives to enjoy his short time on the planet, and he uses that time as best as he can.
Immediately in the first scene, the director gives us ”save the cat” moment (figurately and literally). In the film, the term ”save the cat” is used for screenwriters when they want to make the main character likable to the audience. They set up the situation in which a character does a good thing, and from that point, he is closer to the audience and bit more likable. Moondog in the first scene saves the cat literally, and the audience is hooked on him from the moment. We start off by liking Moondog, and surely, there has to be a point in which he becomes unlikable. After all, he’s an alcoholic, drug addict, and he’s careless. There is no such moment. Everyone respects him, everyone wants to be around him, and everyone likes him. I said that there is no plot in this film, at least not in the first plan. Looking deeper into the film, there’s a strong plot but it’s not on the surface. He’s a poet/writer, really established one, but he didn’t write anything for a long time. We don’t get to see his earlier stages of life, so we as an audience assume that he wasn’t like this. We assume he was a serious, tidy, normal guy who became successful, and we assume that success ruined him. All of that is completely wrong. Later in the film, we see that this type of living gets him going. Only when he lives as he wants to, and when he does things that he wants to do, he’s able to write, and because of that, he gets inspiration for writing. Nobody hates him or gets angry at him, and everybody loves him because he was always like that, he’s truly himself all the time. He doesn't care about what would anyone think. He dresses as he wants, he drinks what he wants, he travels where he wants to, he does everything that he wants, and he doesn’t pretend to be something he isn’t in front of anybody. Because of that, everyone treats him equally good, and he treats everyone like a human being. It doesn’t matter to him if the person is a beggar or a rich man, in his mind all of the people are equal. For example, part with Zac Efron. When they are separating, Efron’s character said to him that he wants one favor from him. He wanted that Moondog remembers him forever. You have to ask yourself, how much you have to be likable and respected that someone wishes only to be remembered by you. Another example is at the end of the film where Moondog and Jonah Hill’s character are talking. At some point in the discussion, Jonah says to him that he didn’t see his purpose in life so far, and he finally has seen it. He said that his only purpose was to help Moondog publish his book, and that’s it. Your only purpose was a very minor part of someone’s life. You have to worship this person as a God to say that. I really liked that aspect of the film, and I don’t think I have ever seen anything like that, where no one had anything against the main character at any point in the film. That made me smile throughout the whole film. There wasn’t any point in the film where the situation would turn around, and we would start hating our character because he did some horrible things, or because some horrible things were done to him. For example, for me, maybe the best moment in the film. On the wedding of his daughter, he walks to the dock and sees his wife and his best friend passionately kissing. At that moment, I thought here we go, the film is going to do typical thing, set up a drama because there wasn’t any of it so far in the film. To my delight, he didn’t approach to them at all, because he knew why was that happening. He was aware that he’s not here for her most of the times. He wanted her to be happy and he understood why did she do that. She also said to her daughter that he won’t be mad at her because of that. She understands who he is, and that’s why she said that. He knows that she still loves him, and he knows that Ray is providing her something he’s not able to, which is always being there for her. Their relationship is portrayed beautifully. You can see they are meant for each other. I liked that film never made us doubt that.
Now let’s get to maybe the most powerful moment in the film. I’m talking about a scene in which Moondog explains why he behaves as he does. Throughout the film, we can see he’s clearly a smart guy, and that he knows what’s he talking about, especially in his poems. In his words:
Life is a fucking rodeo, and I’m going to suck the nectar out of it and fuck it raw until the wheels come off.
That scene hit me really hard. He used very obscure words to explain it, but looking into the context, he’s 100 percent right. Why wouldn't we take advantage of all that life's offering? Also, you have to ask yourself, why I’m not like Moondog in that sense, why do I care what people think about me, why I don’t take advantages of all that life’s offering. After all, we live only once. There is no time for meaningless dramas and problems. The film doesn’t choose to focus on problems. Instead, it just accepts them. It draws good things from them and it moves forward. That’s exactly what we should do in our lives. I’m not saying Moondog should be a role model, but about that matter, he’s absolutely right and we should be like him.
Also, I have to mention the ending. Right after watching the film I wasn’t quite satisfied with it. After all the things he went through, he burned all the money he had, just like that, and on top of that he didn’t die on that boat, and let’s be honest he should’ve died. When you think about it, it makes sense. He got away just as he gets away from every situation that life puts in front of him. Regarding the money, he burned it because he didn’t care for it at all. Somewhere in the middle of the film, his motivation for writing the book is set up. He has to write another book to get money from his dead wife. That act of burning money tells us that he didn’t need any kind of motivation to write. In my opinion, that motivation is there mainly for the audience. It’s there to keep our attention to the film, and it’s the easiest way to explain what’s going on in the film. From our standpoint that’s happening, but from Moondog’s he never needed that money, his inspiration was his life. Everything that he did in his life, it inspired him to write even more. His wife thought that if she made that condition it would push Moondog to write that book, but that wasn’t the case. It was all him, but he appreciated her gesture anyways.
From the technical aspects, the film is fantastic as well. I’d like to mention the editing. There’s a really interesting choice in cutting the conversations. For example, when two characters are talking, the scene is cut so the sound is from one take, but the video is from different ones, and it constantly cuts back to one from where the sound is coming from. I think Korine wanted to make us feel like we’re high, and he achieved that. Also, with that type of editing in conversations, it felt like an actual conversation between characters was much longer, but the film showed us the most important pieces of information from the dialogs or most interesting ones. As far for the directing, I really liked it. Korine has made some quite interesting choices throughout the film, and if you ask me, it worked out pretty well for the film. He pulled out fantastic performances from the whole cast, especially from McConaughey who went all in with his acting in here. Benoit Debie was a cinematographer for this film, so it’s not surprising that this film looked astonishing.
In the end, this film surprised me completely. I tried my best, but It’s a shame that I can’t put into the words all of what I have to say for this film. I really loved it because it’s so different from the rest of the films in this genre. It was brave to do some things, and I liked that. I expected stoner comedy, and I got that, plus deep takes on a life, and why it’s worth living for. It was a lot deeper film that I thought it would be. I would recommend this film definitely, but as I said before, don’t expect the plot-driven film, you’re here for Moondog and just try to enjoy his presence and his perspectives on the world.
A strong contender for the top 10 films from this year.