This isn’t what you think it is. If you’ve read a review for Spring Breakers (2013) already, then you probably know that. This movie is a perspective on spring break that you might not expect given the word of mouth on this movie. I had heard that it was a bunch of ex-Disney cuties doing crazy stuff that would obliterate their innocent character traps. Well, that looks to be true of two of these young ladies while the other two seem to have played the beautiful but evil characters before. Even so, this is so misleading that I’m surprised that it was allowed to be spread in the first place. It’s so widespread, in fact, that even those reviewers who are calling it thought-provoking still categorize the movie as a dirty vehicle for these young ladies. I have my theories about why these women were cast in the movie and none of them are for their benefit. I’ll tell you what, though, this guy who brought what I can only surmise to be his nine year old son has a serious lack of judgment.
Four young women at a rural college want to go have fun for spring break. Faith (Selena Gomez) is basically religious, but smokes pot. Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Brit (Ashley Benson) are inseparable and on the wilder side. I’m not sure what Cotty’s (Rachel Korine) characteristic is other than open to doing crazy things and smoking pot. Oh wait, she has a car, but it’s in the shop. When their collected money isn’t enough, the latter three rob the local chicken shack and make their way to St. Petersburg, FL. Montage! Boobs! Pot! Beer! Boobs! Beer! More drugs! Jail [ 😦 ]. Alien (James Franco) [ ]. Then things get weird. When did things get weird?
If I tell you the movie is written and directed by Harmony Korine, an indie filmmaker of the odder sort, would that do anything for you? How about that Anapurna (along with about a dozen other producers) were backing it? What you should take from that is that this is not your fun and games spring break flick. The constant reminders of what’s going on at the beach aren’t necessarily to excite you, but to slowly draw a parallel from that fun to the darker underbelly of this world that makes that fun possible. This part is done very well. The broad strokes of Spring Breakers are interesting, thought-provoking, and worth your time. So worth your time that some people walked out of the movie about a third of the way through.
That’s rather surprising. After all, it takes about a minute before you realize what’s going on here. The music is wholly lamenting. The characters are immediately recognizable as people who want more but are never going to get it. So, the fact that they stuck around for almost forty-five minutes before skedaddling is impressive. Then again, there were a lot of boobs.
A problem, as I see it, lies in some of that groundwork. Not until the final hour of the film do you really understand what it’s about. The transition from vacuous hedonism—again, something I expected to be the entrée of the film—to the James Franco storyline was painful. You can feel the gears shifting until it clunks into place. It depends, to a great extent, on how you experience movies. Are you satisfied with little details to define a character or do you need some kind of moment to establish it? There are three states in the movie —comfortably broken, painfully sleazy, then acceptably sleazy. The painful sleaziness was far too effective. I couldn’t imagine any girl, even if she was from Eastern Kentucky, to accept James Franco with cornrows and a golden grill. Weird as they may be, they are too pretty to think this guy is near their league. So something was needed there to smooth out those shifts, build out the women’s lives to make their inanity believable, and ultimately smooth out Korine’s argument, which I can only claim some intuitive response to at this point.
Another challenge was the performances. If we’re going for ultra-realism, then the film is a clear success. People don’t say things you normally see in a movie. They don’t make sense, they aren’t purposefully profound, they bobble lines they want to be profound, and they’re repetitive. But I like movies. I like when they make sense, are purposefully profound, deliver the lines well, and are not repetitive. The repetition was nearly unforgivable. Korine, apparently, is known for his non-linear storytelling—I was reminded of Detachment (2012)—and he sticks to that approach in flash forwards and showing people say the same thing three different times three different places. It’s stylized (cinematography by Benoît Debie), so I bore with it, but believe me when I say that I wish it were otherwise. These are not all just a matter of taste, I think, as much of it feels like time wasting.
I think that I ought to discuss some of the shame that goes into this movie. I’m not sure who should be ashamed, but it’s either the audience or the cameraman or Korine. As I noted, there were a lot of boobs. None, clearly seen at any rate, of those ex-Disney girls. They are scantily clad when clad at all and the camera frequently dips center frame below their female equator. Add to this the element of the pure fouled and we’re near to exploitation. Casting these ladies means the shame and exploitation are Korine’s. This requires some patronizing on my part as they signed up for this. Since Venessa Hudgens will be in the sequel Machete Kills (2013), I suspect there’s an element of “let’s do this crazy movie, it’ll be fun” to their decision. This isn’t a fun movie. Of course, there’s some shame on the audience for going to this movie to enjoy the debauchery. Korine, I imagine, would say it’s our eyes the cameraman is mimicking, but, while true, is a double-edged sword. Shame all-round, I supposed.
Pretty good movie, though.