2012’s Spring Breakers, a lurid portrait of youthful debauchery in sun-drenched Florida, proved an unlikely hit for oddball auteur Harmony Korine. His follow-up, The Beach Bum, retains the setting and hedonistic vibe, but shifts the satirical focus towards middle-aged dropouts. The beach bum of the title is Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), a once-great poet who now spends most of his time getting high and chasing younger women – a lifestyle funded by his independently wealthy wife Minnie (Isla Fisher). But when a change of circumstances disrupts his cash flow, Moondog is encouraged by loved ones to clean up his act and write the great American novel that surely lurks within him. While regular gratuitous shots of topless women suggest that Korine has no desire to become a spokesman for the Time’s Up movement, The Beach Bum is nevertheless a timely portrait of a privileged white man given carte blanche to behave outrageously on account of his alleged artistic genius. Korine sceptics are unlikely to be converted – like much of his work, the film is narratively threadbare and childishly provocative. But it’s also exhilaratingly immersive and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, with supporting turns by Jonah Hill as a dandyish literary agent and Martin Lawrence as a dolphin-obsessed Vietnam vet.
The Beach Bum | Directed by Harmony Korine (US 2019) with Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg. Starts March 28.
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