The Beach Bum ★★★½

"Smoke all night, sleep all day/That's the epitome of the American way"--Three 6 Mafia, "Stay Fly"

THE BEACH BUM's reluctance to offer any overt criticism of Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), a callous and rather dim stoner who is able to drift through life on his "genius" and his wife's money, isn't too popular in the current climate for cinema, as one can tell from some of its reception here on Letterboxd and reviews like Noah Berlatsky's in the Chicago Reader. On the surface, the film's devoted to a pleasant sense of drift, with as little ambition as Moondog and very little narrative momentum till {startling event} happens half an hour in. The editing and camera movement seem designed to make the spectator feel like we're mildly baked too, and it's a fun ride. But underneath the silliness like a blind Rasta puffing a burrito-sized joint successfully flying a plane, Moondog seems like a self-portrait of Korine on some level, except that he's able to drink and smoke weed all day without suffering any real negative consequences, while Korine's addiction to hard drugs wrecked his career and life for a long stretch of the 2000s. THE BEACH BUM tries its best to keep things light, but even so, Moondog's ability to do whatever he wants and keep falling up comes across as laughing in the face of death. Unlike SPRING BREAKERS, which had a clear perspective on its characters, it's up to the viewer to decide if there's anything worthwhile in his version of happiness.

Steve Erickson liked this review