‘Fun is the fucking gun’, proclaims the titular character in Harmony Korine’s new movie. This stoner non-comedy closely replicates the experience of enforced proximity to an individual who pitches him or herself as the living epitome of the good time.
The trouble is that while it’s one thing to lead a studiously unconventional lifestyle, it’s another to rub it in everyone else’s faces, whether one is St Francis of Assisi or Moondog here. This is a phenomenon I am all too familiar with. I even knew someone called Moondog back in Belize in the 80s.
Individuals determined to demonstrate that they have a free pass to live outside everyone else’s mores tend to act with eye-watering entitlement. There are even a few of their sort dotted around Antigua and I tend to feel the same way about them as I did about Matthew McConaughey’s on screen consummation of the type: a form of discomfort that is inevitably boosted by a developing world perspective.
There’s another quite simple conceit going on here, rather like that of Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus — the jarring notion that great art can emerge from intense dickishness. Yet Korine appears to lack the screenwriting skills to place enough utterances of sufficient profundity into the mouth of his protagonist to carry this off. In fact there is one prize-winning poem set in Havana recited twice in the film by McConaughey, that suggests rather half-heartedly that satire was instead the aim here.
At the outset one is led to believe that the audience will be placed within the framework of that familiar narrative featuring an essentially bad person forced to go on a journey of personal growth through which, in an altogether unlikely manner, they are transformed into a better sort of human being. (Think Central Station).
Yet round the mid-point — when Zac Efron shows up in a brave attempt to drag his career below the low it touched in Dirty Grandpa — you realise that Moondog is never going to pull out of this dive, and that anyone he meets on the way down are simply there to emphasise the pull of gravity.
More’s the pity as I really enjoyed Korine’s previous feature — Spring Breakers — which was grounded in another OTT performance from a somewhat Marmite male performer (James Franco).