As we approach the Summer Movie Season and the various blockbusters it brings, we take a look at why The Beach Bum is exactly the kind of move we need more of. The Beach Bum tells the story of Moondog (played by Matthew McConaughey) a constantly high (both on life and drugs and alcohol) artist as he deals with some trauma in his life and writing a new book. Moondog lives in both squalor and riches. His is wife, Minnie (played by Isla Fisher), is rich and so he will go home to visit her or sometimes he’ll just fall asleep at a park bench in the Keys and look like “that homeless guy.” His hair is long and unkempt, he wears crazy dirty clothes, mostly neon-colored women’s dresses or Guy Fieri looking leftover shorts. He’s nuts, but you know what? He’s happy and that’s what matters most to him.
The Beach Bum is the latest from Harmony Korine but this one has a different tone than the rest. Even though Moondog is a mess of a human he’s enjoying life and constantly succeeds. You leave the theatre oddly happy and filled with warm fuzzies. Not because this movie is realistic or even the best, happiest movie, but this movie gives off an extremely chill tone — it’s a sort of “don’t worry be happy” movie and, honestly, those are the kinds of films we need right now.
Superhero movies constantly overtake the box office. They tell the story of good vs. evil and the good guys get knocked down but eventually get knocked back up. There’s fight scenes and explosions. Almost constantly there is a war going on. It’s almost a fantastical exaggerated mirror of what we’re dealing with right now in the world, just turn on the news. There is always someone pitted against another whether it is political parties or countries, we are constantly fighting against evil and hoping that good will win. It is understandable why these films succeed because they stress you out, they make you laugh and almost cry, but it is just exactly what you want your world to be right now. We want the good guys to win in real life. As much as we want that to happen, these are not the kinds of movies we need to watch right now. We don’t need to escape the world into another world that still is at war. We need to chill out. That’s where Moondog comes in.
The Beach Bum is a simple idea. Simple and fun. Moondog is a famous poet, he has written countless books but is on the out right now. His publisher (played by Jonah Hill) is constantly pushing him and when his wife essentially gives him an ultimatum of you need to write the next book or you’re out, he realizes what he has to do — get high, party, and write.
Moondog struggles with drug abuse but really he isn’t struggling at all. People try to put him in a rehab, he eventually escapes. He enjoys the simple life of PBR tall boys, a joint, and living on a dirty house boat. Getting high doesn’t inhibit his talent, it makes him better. Why? Because the most important thing in life is having fun.
He makes attempts at keeping a clean, normal life but those attempts last briefly. Normal stifles Moondog. There will be moments in the movie where he’s smoking weed with Lingerie (played by Snoop Dogg) and he’s probably on other drugs, probably drunk, and he’ll quote DH Lawrence poetry. Other times he’ll be on a boat he robbed with Flicker (played by Zac Efron), looking into the sun and making up his own poems. Moondog is an artist. He is talented. His talent spews out of him when he reaches peak fun and it’s really a delight to watch.
We are not saying to live like Moondog, it is a clear movie, someone who would live like that would not survive in the day to day life. But it’s a movie and it’s just trying to send a message. Just stop worrying, enjoy life, and then the work will come. Sometimes we find ourselves struggling day to day with doing work and getting stuff done. We stress with what is going on in the world and in our daily lives. Sometimes we focus too much on work that it stumps us. There is so much darkness nowadays you sometimes forget to look for the light. The film isn’t saying be like Moondog but it’s saying it’s good to have fun sometimes. It’s good to just enjoy life, experience everything, go party with your friends. Then maybe if you’re struggling creatively, that enjoyable experience may knock out your writer’s block.
Also while Moondog is an addict he does show that he is a nice guy. He has a good relationship with his daughter and wife. He meets friends along the way. He is quick to help out someone when they need it. Moondog, albeit it a mess, is a good guy. He’s the kind of guy you can’t help but root for him even though he’s half in the back before it’s even noon.
Movies nowadays are so epic. This one was the opposite. I saw it in a small theatre, only about 20 seats (but every seat was full), on a Tuesday night, and everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. No, it’s not the best movie, yeah it’s exaggerated and ridiculous, but sometimes it’s good to just relax and lean into the weirdness. Sometimes the weirdness is oddly inspiring. It’s not telling you to get wasted like Moondog but it’s just telling you to just enjoy yourself sometimes. Life is short and you have to make the most of it while you still can and Moondog knows that.