Darr: Korine’s ‘The Beach Bum’ isn’t a good comedy, which is why you should see it

There’s a rare type of confused laughter where your brain can’t decide if what you’re looking at is too sad and weird to be funny. “The Beach Bum” might be the first comedy to traffic almost exclusively in invoking this confused laughter from the audience.

At the heart of “The Beach Bum” is a drugged-up poet named Moondog who blows his wife’s cash living a hedonistic gutter lifestyle in a kaleidoscopic vision of the Florida Keys.

If it were jokier, “The Beach Bum” would be a straightforward comedy about this zany protagonist and the cast of oddballs he encounters throughout his life. If it condemned the asshole actions of its rich characters, “The Beach Bum” would be a straightforward political satire. Perplexingly — perhaps daringly — “The Beach Bum” does neither.

Instead, it seems content to let the moral wrongness of its central character’s hedonistic lifestyle bubble very softly under the surface. Moondog embarrasses his loved ones during important moments, becomes complicit in the injury of those close to him, and wastes unbelievable amounts of money while others in his circle struggle to meet basic ends.

The victims of Moondog’s degeneracy either forgive him, disappear from the movie’s sight, or do both. As “The Beach Bum” meanders its way to a happily-ever-after conclusion, it’s almost impossible to tell whether the movie wants us to forget or obsess over the wreckage caused along the way.

Every time I laughed at “The Beach Bum,” I legitimately didn’t know whether I was supposed to laugh or not. Every time I nodded my head in agreement with some sort of political message within the film, the film detoured rapidly.

It’s worth watching “The Beach Bum” to witness a masterful rendition of this rare middle ground. It’s not a comfortable place to be, but it’s certainly somewhere new.