– Summary –
Director : Harmony Korine
Year Of Release : 2012
Principal Cast : James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane, Sidney & Thurman Sewell.
Approx Running Time : 94 Minutes
Synopsis: Four high-schoolers go to Florida for spring break, only to become mixed up with a wannabe drug kingpin and his turf war with his former friend.
What we think : No doubt catering to the kind of demographic to which I no longer belong, Spring Breakers is uber cool, trashy, sexy, violent and hyper-kinetic – the kind of film I used to enjoy, but now find a tedious bore. If you can stomach Spring Breakers’ dilettante rantings, and monotonous narrative and soundtrack, as well as the lowbrow moral antics of the story itself, there’s some casual titillation to be enjoyed alongside James Franco’s whacked-out drug dealer slash rapper role, but otherwise it’s all a crushing, crashing bore. Sound and fury for the sake of it creates antipathy from the viewer, and the sad fact is that Spring Breakers rides that one-trick pony into an early grave.
Beach. Boobs. Babes.
The American cultural tradition of spring break, where school students travel to the warmer climes in places like Florida in search of fun in the sun, is something of a rite of passage. Apparently. Here in Australia, our version of such an event is known as “schoolies”, whereby the end of exams at the final year of high-school study becomes a hall pass for teens to go get wasted, smashed, f@cked and annihilated in a sea of booze, music and drugs. As much as some might not like it, it has become a pivot point for school-age kids across the country here, and so in this respect I guess I can accept a lot of that pent-up frustration being let loose upon the world wherever it might be. Harmony Korine’s film, Spring Breakers, taps into that wild-and-free feeling, at least initially, begrudgingly coat-tailing on the sexy, sandy good times of frolicking teens as it tries to deliver some kind of warped life-message about doing whatever the hell you want, as long as you don’t get caught. While I’m at a loss as to the exact message Spring Breakers tries to impart amongst the tits and the drugs and the guns, there’s something almost cathartic about the way Korine manages to pull bedraggled-trash performances out of actresses like Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, who single-handedly obliterate their Disney Good Girl images for this movie. Sigh. I guess the only way is down if you’re trying to be a “serious” actress in Hollywood. At least Hudgens gets her top off. Sigh.
Four friends, Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brittany (Ashlen Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine – who, incidentally, is married to director Harmony) leave school for spring break in Florida; in order to fund their trip, they rob a local small business with plastic guns and a hammer – a dubiously idiotic move but one they don’t seem to regret. Arriving in St Petersburg, Florida, they embark on a whirlwind of parties and beachgoing, until they’re arrested for drug possession when police arrive to break up a particularly wild shindig. Their bail is posted by an unlikely source: a rapper and gangster named Alien (James Franco), who suckers them into his crime ring with promises of money and stuff. As Alien and the girls become more brazen with their criminal activity, they draw the ire of Alien’s rival, Big Arch (Gucci Mane), who threatens to kill them unless they stay off his turf. Seeking revenge for the wounding of one of their friends, the girls and Alien decide to launch an assault on Big Arch’s Florida compound.
I’ll go to God never claiming I’m a prude, because I like naked women as much as the next guy (sorry ladies, if that’s a tad misogynistic) but damn, Spring Breakers exists on a whole ‘nother level. Boobs galore in this thing. Which is great, really, but I just wish they’d had a better story to bookend. Spring Breakers attempts to be a controversially hedonistic adventure into the underbelly of the Florida crime scene, as seen through the eyes of seemingly innocent girls, but in the end feels more flash than flesh, more style than substance, and more gratuity than reality. Filmed with a spiceless Girls Gone Wild style, Spring Breakers tries to get us to empathize with the four leading ladies (one of whom is portrayed as a bit of stick-in-the-mud Christian gal) as they commit the crime to get them to Florida in the first place, by reiterating some teen-speak mantra about “getting out of this town” a lot, but this never gels like it should. In fact, the entire film feels like a coming-of-age story written by some 90 year old gimp in a basement who never came of age himself; it’s a fantasy of a story, highly improbable and yet, weirdly, utterly believable, even when it defies description.
One gets the sense that Spring Breakers is a film destined for high rotation in frat houses, dorm rooms and school after-parties for the next twenty years. It aims squarely for the disenfranchised teens, the stuck-in-a-rut, going nowhere emo-lite crowd to whom the chance at freedom is akin to finding buried treasure. There’s nothing in this film for a nearly-40 year old blogger with two kids and carpet filled with Lego smegma. In saying that, there should be something implicitly entertaining – nay, enlightening – to anybody seeking to watch this film with an open mind (and I did go into this with low expectations but an open mind) but I’ll be damned if I could posit that the film is entirely coherent. Korine seems to have concocted his own fantasy of what spring break, or indeed life itself, should be like. The girls get with the guy with the guns, and it seems life should always be one giant party. That’s the message to take out of this – fine, I know it’s not for me, but seriously? The script is far to clever for its own good, supplanting avante garde cinematic chicanery for creativity, which negates the effect in the first place. Repeated dialogue throughout the film, with utterances of “spring break” seemingly every five minutes or so, or about how great spring break is, or how free these girls want to be, and I suddenly had the realization that I was under no obligation to even watch this stupid film to the end. Being “hip” and “cool” simply for the sake of seeming edgy, rather than telling a decent story (which this isn’t, by the way) just made me want to scratch out my eyeballs.
The film’s blinding use of neon, shadows and shotgun-clattering scene changes got old real fast. Korine tries for an Oliver Stone blended with early Danny Boyle mix, and I guess if style is all you’re after, it works well, but the headache inducing coma the acting put me into ruined any good work the film had going for it. The only shining light in Spring Breakers is James Franco, who is nearly unrecognizable as Alien, the gangsta with the bling on his teeth who constantly says “look at all my sheit” just like that. Franco rocks his part in the film, and I guess if there was any entertainment to be found, it’s this little slice of crazy. Otherwise, the rest of the cast must trudge through some horrendous dialogue trying to sound like teenagers – Gomez does the best (and has the most rounded character), but her trio of accomplices just sound like they’re trying to be cool, instead of actually, you know, being cool. Hudgens and former Days of Our Lives actress Ashley Benson have a naked tryst with Franco in a pool which goes on for an eternity (and achieved virtually nothing, not even arousal in the audience) and it was at this point that I finally came to the conclusion that this film just sucked. I mean, it just blew. At no point was it ever going to get to the point, nor was it going to lighten up with some “oh, it’s all a dream” or “these girls get out of dodge before the shit goes down” because it never happens. The moral of the story to Spring Breakers? Hell if I know!
Flashes of teenage boobery might raise a glimmer of interest from the testosterone packers out there, but between the freeze-frame goodness of its early moments on the Florida beachhead, and the sight of Selena Gomez packed into clothing three sizes too
tight small, Spring Breakers is an exercise in tedium and flashy overkill. The substance so desperately wanted by Harmony Korine’s film-student-scripting style evaporates the moment any of the girls – strike that, any one at all – opens their mouths, drags this film into a tailspin from which there is no escape. It’s a film desperately in need of a point, wandering through controversy without a care in the world, and ultimately, fails on nearly every level to offer something meaningful to humanity in any way.
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