What Not to Watch: The Beach Bum
Parent Previews will not be providing a full review for The Beach Bum. Based on our advance research, we consider the movie to be unsuitable for family viewing in all circumstances and don’t recommend it for adults either. The MPAA rated The Beach Bum R for “pervasive drug and alcohol use, language throughout, nudity and some strong sexual content. We believe this to be an appropriate warning for parents.
The Beach Bum is a story about an aging, hedonistic stoner named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) who is determined to live life by his own rules – none of which parents want their kids to emulate. The film glamorizes drug use and is not shy about showing it: substance use pervades the film as characters smoke joints, use bongs, and snort lines of cocaine. (One character even gives cocaine to his parrot.) Alcohol is ubiquitous and it is difficult to figure out if Moondog is drunk, stoned or both in almost every scene. And, not to be outdone, Moondog even gives beer to his cat.
Constant substance use has its usual disinhibiting effect on the characters, which is visible first in their use of language. There are over 200 uses of profanity in this 95 minute film, with the sexual expletive (f*k) and scatological curse word (s*t) predominating. When characters aren’t swearing, they are often having crude conversations around sexual matters.
Vulgar sexual conversation is only a prelude to the film’s sexual content, particularly nudity. There are three sexually suggestive scenes in the film as well as significant nudity. Women’s breasts are frequently visible in both sexual and non-sexual contexts as are buttocks.
Surprisingly, The Beach Bum also features some violence involving weapons, animals, and hand-to-hand conflict with resulting blood and even dismemberment. This is not quite what audiences will expect from a stoner flick by the sea.
As worrying as the content is, The Beach Bum’s pervasive messages might be even worse. Moondog is presented as a brilliant poet, and the “artistic temperament” is supposedly an excuse for his behavior. But his self-absorption, shading into narcissism, his unquestioning sense of privilege based on his talent, and his thoughtless hedonism, make Moondog a character as unappealing as this film.