Spring Breakers

“Spring break…..Spring break forevaaaa.”  Words uttered by James Franco’s outrageous and eccentric Alien that resonate throughout the duration of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.   Spoken soft and slow, this dialogue suggests that spring break isn’t just a week of raucous and irresponsible decision making – it’s a state of being.

It has been 18 years since Harmony Korine co-wrote Kids, which was one of the most edgy and controversial films of its time.  Kids was, on the surface, your typical teenage movie – but it was a blatantly honest and accurate wake-up call.  Spring Breakers takes this same premise to a whole different level as it satirizes the widely held ‘no consequences’ attitude of today’s youth.  In a way, it’s exploitation.

Spring Breakers has enough on its surface to attract mainstream audiences, but it has more than enough to satisfy the film snobs.  Much like Kids, it will more than likely be widely misunderstood by mainstream audiences – especially those not willing to open themselves up to different film experiences.  If there was any category to put the film under, it could be “mainstream arthouse”.

The film’s title sequence, perfectly placed under Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites”, is a drug induced and booze drenched beach party that is effectively laid out in slow motion – it’s downright fantastic.  Topless young women are displayed gyrating and dancing under waterfalls of alcohol, while young men bask in their spring break glory.  As the Skrillex beat continues, so do image after image of slow motion topless beer showers.  If you start to feel uncomfortable, that’s ok – you’re supposed to.

Spring Breakers 2Spring Breakers centers upon four college co-eds – Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) – sick of the monotony of life at school.  The girls simply seem exhausted of their mundane existence, as we see Candy and Brit tirelessly sitting through a lecture about African-American soldiers in the Civil War.  As the girls smoke weed and hang out in the hallway, they keep stressing how they want to do something more with their lives – and to them, that means partying their asses off at spring break.

Much of the camera work in these few sequences is beautiful.  Sliding through day and night, dark lit rooms and hallways occupied by the young girls play under a soft and hypnotic score.  The girls finally decide that they want to go on spring break until they realize they are extremely short on cash.

Faith sits through a church group to pray on their troubles – asked if she’s “crazy for Jesus” – while the other three girls opt for a more radical strategy on how to amass the money needed to go on the trip.  Armed with a squirt gun – the tip painted black – and a rubber-headed mallet (“Fuckin’ pretend like it’s a videogame”), Candy, Brit, and Cotty go full on gangsta to rob the local chicken shack.

Spring Breakers Handcuffs 2Once the money is flowing, the film cuts right to the bus trip to St. Petersburg, FL.  Faith gives a soft voiceover on how wonderful spring break is – “I think this is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been.”  Played under the voiceover are more images of slow motion gyrating and partying, this is spring break at its most surreal.

If you were worried about the casting of Disney princesses like Gomez and Hudgens, don’t be.  All four girls completely buy into their roles.  While each girl gets their own moment to shine in the film, it’s almost as if the four of them are one character.  While partying with booze and drugs, the girls get busted and spend the night in jail.  Their self-proclaimed “guardian angel”, Alien, bails them out.

Spring Breakers James Franco - CopyIt is at this point that Spring Breakers comes to life.  With crusty braids, amateur tattoos, and Paul Wall style grills, Franco totally immerses himself into this white boy gangsta rapper.  There are few adjectives that could describe his performance – it’s virtually indescribable.  Alien jumps off the screen with every line of dialogue, every smile, and every jaw-dropping moment – he’s so good that you almost lose sight of the fact that James Franco is the man behind the goofy white shades and ridiculous braids.

“My name’s Alien.  Well, my real name’s Al, but truth be told, I’m not from this planet y’all.”  Alien can’t help but bask in the glory of his self-anointed gangsta lifestyle.  Franco’s Alien is a caricature of the wannabe white boy, drowning in a world usually occupied by black males.

Alien undoubtedly provides the film’s most memorable and quotable scenes – and trust me, there are a lot of them.  “Look at my shit!” Alien proclaims as he gives the girls a rundown of the contents of his bedroom.  He has shorts, in “every fuckin’ color.”  He mixes Calvin Klein fragrances – ‘Escape’ and ‘Be’ – so he smells nice.  He has guns, nunchucks, his bed is a “spaceship” where he and all his “Benjamin’s” take off to another planet.  He has Scarface on repeat – “ I got Scarface on repeat….Scarface….on repeat…constant, y’all!”

Spring Breakers James Franco Ashley Benson Vanessa Hudgens 2All of the girls are good, don’t lose sight of that, but Franco gives a balls-out performance that is the most impressive performance thus far in 2013.  James Franco has set the bar for Best Supporting Actor in 2013.  Challengers can enter at their own risk.

The girls are enamored by Alien, a sort of white trash Prince Charming.  On the surface, Alien comes off as a predator about to claim his prey, but behind of all the ludicrous tomfoolery, there’s something romantic about him.

Harmony Korine has provided us with an elliptical style that jumps in and out of slow motion and high-definition, then returns us to unfocused, fuzzy, smoke filled close ups.  We don’t feel like we are a part of the party, we feel like spectators watching from arm’s reach.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?  Korine isn’t celebrating the debauchery, he’s satirizing it.  Much like Oliver Stone satirized our need for violence with Natural Born Killers, Korine is criticizing an empty generation of youth who sees the constant and everlasting need to keep the party going – a generation that doesn’t see beyond the hazy guilty pleasures, unaware of any sort of consequence.

Spring Breakers AlienFor all of its silliness and stupidity, the underlying message of Spring Breakers conveys the corruption of its young female leads’ need for complicity in order to feel “something more”.

What will stay with the audience long after viewing the film is James Franco’s eccentrically enigmatic performance that is absolutely worthy of Oscar gold.

Spring Breakers is a neon clad techno hip-hop laced work of art that holds a mirror up to today’s youth and satirizes a widely held ‘no consequences’ attitude.  Director Harmony Korine brings pathos to this creative, misogynistic, hedonistic, and controversial fever dream that will cement images into the minds of all that view it with its raunchy hypnotism.

Spring Breakers isn’t a party – it’s a balls-out raging insurgency that suggests that spring break isn’t just a week off, it’s a state of visceral being.  And in many ways, there’s something extremely beautiful about that.

Spring Breakers Poster

About ptdougherty

I'm just a 27 year old college kid with celebrity dreams. Under Armour Employed. I love movies, shoes, and have a childlike infatuation with Batman.

Posted on March 23, 2013, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good review Pat. The result of this movie is something that’s equal parts enjoyable and uncomfortable. It is challenging, raw, gritty, sad and real, but worth a watch.

  2. Great job as always! Totally agree about James Franco–he was amazing and I will be quoting the “‘Calvin Klein: Escape’ and ‘Be'” line frequently. It’s also great/interesting that Cotty is Harmony Korine’s wife.

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