(2013, US, d. Harmony Korine)
Welcome to the overwhelming and hypnotic world of neon-lights, Florida beaches, unnerving techno soundtracks, booze, drugs, vandalism, sex, teens, parties, and violence. For many of us, that’s just too much to handle. But for the four young women at the center of this film, that’s just a week of Spring Break.
Spring Breakers is the new film from director Harmony Korine (Gummo, Mister Lonely) and producer Megan Ellison (Zero Dark Thirty, The Master). Part social satire dipped in a lot of Natural Born Killers, Spring Breakers is the kind of film you’d expect Sofia Coppola to make had she been raised on nothing but Girls Gone Wild and Cops. Covered head to tail in top-40 tunes and uniquely edited to never actually let you sit back and just observe what’s going on, the film is quite a challenge to the average viewer. Yet despite the compliments the movie’s been receiving, don’t expect that to be a sign of whether you’re gonna like this movie. In fact, most of the people in the theater I saw the film with hated it.
While the movie is nothing like what you’d expect from the teasers, this is a both a good thing and a bad thing. For those coming in to enjoy a glorified version of Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break Edition, enjoy the first 7 minutes; exit signs are located around you. For those coming in thinking they’re actually about to watch something really artistic and out there…try and enjoy the rest.
The biggest problem with Spring Breakers is that, despite what it achieves artistically (I’m not being sarcastic with that statement), it’s never actually enjoyable. It gets off to the right start, though. After a 5 minute montage of what everyone expects a wild college kid’s spring break to consist of on a Florida beach, we’re introduced to four childhood friends stuck on a lonely college campus in the middle of nowhere at the start of break. Meet Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) – the strangest girl-group we’ll probably meet on screen this year.
The group desperately wants to make it to the beaches of South Florida for break and join the throngs of wild kids their age. And let me be clear: these are not the kind of girls who act innocent and then end up having a wild time. Their dirty and extreme intentions, from the first few minutes, are excruciatingly clear. But the problem is: the girls don’t have enough money to get there. So what’s a few broads to do in that situation? Of course: just rob the patrons in a local restaurant! That should do the trick.
If almost feels like the end of the movie here, because once they’re in Florida, they’re having the time of their lives. You almost wish you could join them on the beaches, by the apartments, and in the ocean as they drink, laugh, snort, hook up, and accomplish every secret item on any spring breaker’s bucket list. But that’s when things start getting weird.
Meet Alien (James Franco), the “wangsta” stranger who bails out the four girls after they’re arrested for an afternoon of cocaine and debauchery. After getting over the initial hump of fear and suspicion when you first hang out with a cornrowed, silver-toothed gangster with a penchant for anything materialistic – no matter how violent the tool (we’ve all been there, right?), the girls soon discover that Alien embodies everything they’ve been taught to love. Soon, the girls (of the ones that remain) take one step after another, furthering themselves into the underbelly of South Florida crime- providing new meaning to what constitutes as “vacation”.
Spring Breakers is a unique character study – unafraid of not answering questions, but also of asking them in the first place. Rather, it simply depicts – with as much wide-eyed energy and color it can – the behaviors and desires of the modern young adult. In an interview at the ArcLight Hollywood Theater, director Harmony Korine dismissed any claims that he was trying to bring out any truth or “reality” with the film. Rather, his goal was to, in fact, make the film as “unreal” as possible.
Yet despite his own intentions, its difficult to not walk away from Korine’s film without garnering some meaning – especially when most of your leading cast has made a career out of being “good, Disney girls”. I have to admit: it is a a bit surreal watching Gomez and Hudgens commit every sin under the South Florida sun, make out with other women, and have a ball while they’re at it.
But here’s the honest truth: apart from the first 30 minutes (which includes an incredible one take shot involving a car circling a restaurant), I didn’t actually enjoy the movie. It was alienating, jarring, and tonally uncomfortable. At the end of the day, I happened to be just another one of those people who expected something far different than what actually came out.
But different doesn’t mean bad. In this case, it actually is worth a ton of worthwhile thought. And though commendable on its own right, I can’t imagine recommending Spring Breakers to anyone looking for a fun time at the movies.