Matthew McConaughey’s Beach Bum Movie Review

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Matthew McConaughey’s Beach Bum Movie Review

Have you ever walked past a head shop and seen one of those gas-mask bongs in the window? Like, it’s an actual bong, but you’re supposed to strap it around your head and seal off the airways, so that for an unspecified amount of time, you would only be aspirating weed smoke? I’ve seen those more times than I can count, and I’ve always just assumed they were for show. Like couture, but for weed paraphernalia. Who would want to get that high? Wouldn’t even the most committed stoner want to breathe regular air at some point? Wouldn’t it be dangerous, or at the very least, not fun?

I mention this because various characters wear a gas-mask bong in The Beach Bum, which itself is a gas-mask bong masquerading as a movie. Matthew McConaughey stars as a man whose name is Moondog (because of course it is), who is a celebrated poet (because of course he is) and now lives the life of one of those sunburned strangers who tries to hug you when you’re in Key West. He has the scraggly hair of Sammy Hagar, the wardrobe of Kevin Jonas on the “Sucker” cover, and a best friend who’s a hip-hop star named Lingerie, and is played by hip-hop star Snoop Dogg. Now, Snoop apparently improvised a lot of his dialogue, which is one explanation for why nothing happens in any of the scenes he’s in.

NEON

Moondog also has a wealthy wife who he pops up to Miami to see once in a while. She’s played by Isla Fisher, and they have a fun relationship where they do fun things like he goes down on her when she’s getting a pedicure, or they boozily ruin their daughter’s wedding, or she dies in a drunk-driving accident that nobody seems to learn from. He’s also got a literary agent, who like all literary agents in movies is waiting for him to get that next book finished already, man! The literary agent is Jonah Hill, who is at the same time playing Big Daddy in a high school production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Jimmy Buffett plays Jimmy Buffett and you and he and I all have the same amount of information about how and why that is happening.

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Atsushi Nishijima

If there’s a plot, it’s about Moondog finally getting that next book finished already, man. But there really isn’t, so The Beach Bum just kind of whizzes past you in a dizzying whirl of colors so blindingly Miami neon that you’re relieved when a scene is set on the beach, because at least something on the screen will just be beige. There is something about money, specifically Moondog’s inheritance from his wife, but he doesn’t seem to care about it. There is a poem he has written, and it is going to set the world on fire, and it goes “Pissing a few moments ago, I looked down at my penis affectionately, knowing it has been inside you twice today makes me feel beautiful.” And this is shocking because A) that already is a poem by Richard Brautigan, and B) there’s no way a guy like Moondog wouldn’t call it a “pecker.” There is a brief appearance from Martin Lawrence, as a guy who takes people on dolphin-spotting boat rides but cannot himself tell dolphins from sharks, and you are correct that he will get his foot bitten off and that nobody on screen will stop laughing about it. Zac Efron is also here as someone Moondog meets in a rehab stint that also comes to nothing, and you already know this, but his facial hair doubles as Venetian blinds.

At the center of it is Matthew McConaughey, who is at the same time playing the public perception of his truest self and doing more acting than we’ve ever seen him do in ages. He has spent the last five years plodding through existential monologues in True Detective and Lincoln commercials and whatever Serenity is with total ease, but now that his job is bonghits and giggles, you can really see the sweat. He’s working harder than he has in years, yet nothing really happens. (It is in fact possible that nothing actually happens in the movie; Lingerie has a new, very potent strain of weed he’s grown in a stagnant Kingston pond, and he warns Moondog not to smoke it, but nobody listens to anybody in this movie, so maybe the whole thing is just a ditch-weed hallucination.)

All I know is I watched it in one of those movie theaters where you can order alcohol, so I absolutely did, and the combined effect of red wine and someone else’s gas-mask bong hits was unpleasantly strong. I don’t know whether Moondog is ever supposed to be reconsidering his lifestyle, but I sure was. Like a trip to Key West itself, The Beach Bum is a lot of fun until you get settled in, take a good look around, and notice that everyone is going to die in three weeks, maximum.

It’s intoxicating, in that it results in you taking a deep breath and asking yourself, once and for all: “What are you doing with your life?”

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