Directed by: Harmony Korine
Written by: Harmony Korine
Cast: James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane
“I think we’re finding ourselves out here.”
Ahoy! Aidan here.
Ah, Harmony Korine. Harmony, Harmony, Harmony.
Implications can be astoundingly important to understanding what place a film holds in pop culture – implications of casting, writing, and directing can critically alter public perception of a given work of art. The Wrestler wouldn’t be the film it is if not for Mickey Rourke’s gut-wrenchingly raw performance, a comeback tour-de-force that transcended the film it occupied. Audiences know to expect a droll, blood-soaked epic out of a Quentin Tarantino film just as they know what not to expect from a David Lynch joint. And, after discovering the mind behind Spring Breakers was none other than the same one behind Kids (arguably the most important film of the 1990s), I knew there had to be more to the film than what its bitchy, flesh-filled, neon-bathed trailer suggested. Thank God I was right.
Spring Break forever, bitches.
The film chronicles four college girls’ escape from their oh-so-brutal academic existence to the more existentially-nourishing world of tits, booze, and ass; after the co-eds (Brit, Candy, Cotty, and Faith, played by Benson, Hudgens, Korine, and Gomez, respectively) realize they’re at a loss for cash to fund the trip, their lust for debauchery turns violent as they rob a diner to fill the fiscal gap. No big deal, though. Use squirt guns. Pretend it’s a video game. The girls’ desperate yearning to live the MTV party life nudges them thoughtlessly to violent crime. They know what their ultimate Spring Break looks like – they’ve seen it in music videos. No money to get there? They know how to rob an establishment – they’ve seen it in movies.
All girls go balls-to-the wall to get what they want, with the exception of Gomez’s Faith; she retains a quiet, religious reserve that isn’t as easily broken as her far-gone friends would like. As their Spring Break devolves from simple hedonism to morally-ambiguous criminality, Faith wants to throw in the towel with the audience and leave. Again , implications. Gomez and Hudgens are brilliantly cast in their respective and nearly-opposite roles, and their names dole the film with a transcendent level of scandal that ultimately elevates its bitingly satirical social commentary.
Spring Breakers washes over you like an ethereal bath of neon and salt water, with all facets blending seamlessly – the film’s narrative structure is one of its most pleasant surprises, one not to be spoiled in a review. Though I will say its offbeat structure is an absolutely vital component to its aforementioned social critique; ten-minute-long sequences of nothing but tits and ass sound alluring on paper, but become tiring and repetitive when played out on screen. Desensitizing. The audience is bored with the faux-glitz of sweaty co-ed partying before the girls even reach their Spring Break getaway thirty minutes into the film; from then on, the picture’s rhetorical commentary on the true merit of “harmless” debauchery only becomes more and more damning. Sequences of girls acting “sexy” become hilarious. Once-menacing characters become walking jokes, vehicles for the film’s argument.
I was proud that one scene in particular, featuring a voice-over from Gomez’s character as she speaks to her grandmother on the telephone (“I think we’re finding ourselves out here”) generated laughs and applause from the audience. This isn’t what the real world is. This isn’t nourishing or worthwhile. This isn’t divine, though MTV’s Laguna Beach and characters like James Franco’s wickedly funny and sympathetic “Alien” would have you think otherwise.
Speaking of all facets working seamlessly with one another, the score is brilliant – midway through the film, I came to the conclusion that its blurred, synth-heavy soundscape high evoked that of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 masterpiece Drive; and, upon staying for the credits, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Cliff Martinez (the composer of Drive) was responsible, in partnership with Skrillex, for stamping this film with a musical backdrop just as compelling. Dupstep nightmares and Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” playing over the end credits were hilarious globs of icing on the cake. That, and the gorgeously put-together Britney Spears sequence which perfectly illustrates the viciously addictive and sexy allure of beach-bound crime. Oh, and it also shows off James Franco’s singing voice. Can’t go wrong with that, can you?
Didn’t think so.
Spring Breakers is a brilliant social commentary on vicious debauchery’s proximity to violent crime. The movie knows what it is, and it is a masterpiece.
Going into this film expecting a party film is like going into American Psycho expecting a horror movie. It’s a satire, and a damn important one.