Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers photo starrating-4andahalfstars.jpgFour college girls want to spend their spring break vacation in Florida. A bevy of teen beauties, they are played by Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars) and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife). Seemingly the only students left on their college campus, they’re desperate to join the rest of their friends in Florida. They want to have fun but there’s a problem. They have no money. Brit, Candy, and Cotty (minus “good girl” Faith) decide their sole outlet for quick cash is to rob a diner so they can afford their trip. At first the jump from college coed to hardcore criminal seems like a stretch. However Spring Breakers also functions as a character study of wayward youth. At times I was reminded of films like Thirteen or Alpha Dog in its view of teens gone wrong. This seemingly incongruous behavior actually belies latent tendencies that will be brought to the surface in a horrifying display.

Spring Breakers would appear to be a fun in the sun escapade full of carnal hijinks and randy shenanigans among older teens. Director Harmony Korine’s view of these creatures is decidedly nihilistic. What else would you expect from the screenwriter of Kids? His take is unique. What Korine does is take the “Girls Gone Wild” template and thoroughly turn it on its ear. The cinematography is stylish. It’s appears like an MTV video – a candy colored vision of sun soaked beaches, golden tan bodies, techno music and beer. Yet this is as much a biting comment on pleasure seekers in Florida as it is a cautionary warning for the youth of today. Korine lulls the viewer into a false facade of good times. Montages are frequently utilized to create hallucinogenic sequences that act as sort of a narrative shorthand. These are extremely well edited. They are accompanied by random bits of dialogue, creating a building sense of anxiety and dread. Listen to James Franco intoning “Spriinnnnngggg breaaaakkkkkk.…Spriinnnnngggg breaaaakkkkkk.” The mantra becomes the spoken word equivalent of an earworm you cannot forget.

Speaking of unforgettable…James Franco. He gives a supporting performance worthy of an Academy Award. “My name’s Alien. My real name is Al, but truth be told, I am not from this planet y’all.“ The girls first encounter him at a beachside concert where he’s perforating as a rapper for the spring break crowd. Their paths will soon cross again in the future. As the cornrow wearing, teeth grill sporting, drug dealing white rapper with a southern drawl, he completely embodies the individual so perfectly you forget it’s the actor in the role. It is a mesmerizing achievement that is possibly the greatest James Franco has ever committed to celluloid. Yes he got an Oscar nomination for 127 Hours but his work here is even more revelatory. The four girls are quite effective in their parts as well. Viewers familiar with Gomez and Hudgens from their Disney Channel work, might be surprised seeing the starlets in a racy R rated tale. Gomez is the real standout here mainly because she goes through the biggest change. I only wish the other 3 weren’t all blonde (Hudgens dyes her hair) as it’s difficult to differentiate between the other three characters.

Spring Breakers is an intriguing film. What initially starts out as a superficial focus on hedonistic desires evolves (devolves?) into a nightmare come to life. The visual sequences build on repetition to the point where the audience is desensitized to all the wild partying. At first all the attractive young coeds in various states of undress threatens to become a part of what it ultimately condemns. Even when the girls are in a college classroom their minds are focused on less academic pursuits. But just when you acclimate to the debauched surroundings, the director ratchets up the intensity. There are scenes that have such an uneasy feel, they degenerate from a lighthearted good time into horror within seconds. The picture grows dark. It’s that ability to juggle a rapidly shifting narrative that makes Spring Breakers such a fascinating watch. It’s much more than what the trailers promote. It dares to show the consequences and for that reason, Spring Breakers deserves your attention.

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32 Responses to “Spring Breakers”

  1. I’ve seen this twice now; it’s my favorite film of the year so far. I love the style of it and how the style actually adds to the content rather than distracts from/does the heavy lifting for it. Franco is great. Gomez is great. I think it’s interesting you noted how the three other girls (all blond) look so much alike because I saw a Toronto Film Festival press conference on youtube with Korine saying he thought of those 3 as basically the same person or aspects of the same personality (you certainly see that with Hudgens’ Candy and Benson’s Britt) – maybe that was the point? I also found it amusing that WWE wrestler Jeff Jarrett shows up as the youth pastor – a bit of intertextual casting injoke (given he’s a violent entertainer trying to stir girls like Gomez away from a life which could – and does – give way to violence as entertainment). Love love love this film 🙂 Great review!

    • Ah I really appreciate your insight into Korine’s thought process on the blondes. Even though it didn’t hurt my understanding off the story, knowing that the director meant for them to represent the same person actually adds to my enjoyment. I now feel I shouldn’t be frustrated that I couldn’t differentiate between them.

      Also no idea that the youth pastor was actually a professional wrestler. Again, love the information!

  2. Good review Mark. It’s a very strange flick in the ways that it goes and how, but it’s still well worth the watch because of that. Oh, and also because James Franco is amazing, as usual.

  3. GaryLee828 Says:

    Oh wow, you liked this even more than me. lol. Yeah, I am still absorbing it. I think I am going to go and try to watch it again next week. There are some people who really, really hate this movie; someone on Fogs’ blog put it in the same category as “A Haunted House”. I think we need to take this debate over to Tyson’s blog where he holds 3-on-3 debates; 3 in favor of the film, and 3 against the film. I am glad I am not the only one who thought Franco was worthy of an Oscar; the words felt kind of silly when I first typed that out, but the more I thought about it, the stronger I felt. So, good to see I am not the only one. If you look on my blog I have a “Best Performances” page and I state what makes a performance stand out to me is the ability for an actor to come out of himself and become the character (similar as to what you wrote on this review) – and that is precisely what Franco does in SB. So, props to him, and I hope he takes on some more roles like this and avoids roles he isn’t cut out for like his recent “Oz” debacle. Glad you liked SB. 🙂

    • Yeah I enjoyed this even more than I expected. Thanks for preparing me for what to expect.

      An Academy Award nomination for Franco doesn’t sound silly at all to me, however it’s incredibly far fetched. The power of his character here somewhat reminded me of Matthew McConaughey’s work in Magic Mike which did indeed generate some Oscar buzz. Unfortunately Magic Mike also had the problem of coming out in the first half of the year so by the time nominations were due, I think many had sort of moved on to other films. That’s a shame because had Spring Breakers been release in the Fall, Franco might have been a contender.

  4. LOL “Speaking of unforgettable…James Franco.” I know, right? That character is destined for pop culture greatness, Mark, I’m tellin’ ya. LOL 😀

    Nice review… definitely a film that people should check out. Even if it is causing mixed reactions. I’m with you though, I liked it as well!

    • Reviews seem to be largely positive. However the bad reviews mostly rebuke the picture for succumbing to the very thing it’s against. I didn’t feel that way.

  5. I’ve heard very mixed thoughts on this. I initially decided to miss it but now I think I should see it. Nice review.

  6. “A bevy of teen beauties, they are played by Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars) and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife).”

    Talk about brave casting choices! Wow…

    Good review, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing this one. Anything with Selena Gomez or Vanessa Hudgens–Disney or not–just puts me in a state of fear.

    • I’m not sure you personally would enjoy Spring Breakers either, but honestly – Selena Gomez is extraordinary in this.

      • Really?! I’m really shocked then. I may actually have to see this. I just need to make sure she does more films like that, instead of half-assed family fares like Monte Carlo and WoWP. 😉

  7. Great review, Mark! You’ve now convinced me to see this one. I had written it off as shallow but I guess there’s more to it. Curious to see Selena Gomez and James Franco in their roles.

  8. I haven’t seen this film yet but your review painted a vivid picture of what I should expect. I’m digging the fact that you don’t beat around the bush like some other sites.

  9. Stupid UK – I have to wait until the 5th April. Either way, I’m so excited to see this!

  10. Wordschat Says:

    Catching up on reviews. Am so glad I didn’t listen to me inner voice to skip this unless I was bored. This is the surprise dramatic hit of the year so far. Agreed James Franco’s best performance, er 2nd best. If you haven’t seen him as James Dean then you’ve missed his best. Another dandy review Mark.

    • OMG ! Some friends just recommended the made for TNT movie James Dean (2001) to me yesterday. Definitely need to check that out.

      P.S. I guess by hit you mean with the critics. It’s only made $10M thus far, although given that it only cost $5M to make, I guess it a box office success of sorts.

      • Wordschat Says:

        Gawd it’s been a dozen years since JF played JD? It was the performance of his career even for some factual errors as many biopics have. Somewhere on my blog I review the James Dean books I’ve read. Just search to your Dean’s content. Thanks Mark

  11. This was quite different than I expected. Sure, it had the nudity and party scenes. But the story was much more deeper, darker and depressing. It was good. Selena Gomez and James Francos’ acting were amazing. A certain scene between the two of them, had me cringing. 3 1/2 stars.

  12. How sweet would it be for Franco to get nominated for this role. The best film I have seen so far this year and we are now almost four months in. Nice review Mark.

  13. Great review Mark. I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for this film, which makes me cautiously optimistic. Often whenever a lot of my colleagues are raving about something, I finally get around to seeing whatever it is and just don’t get the appeal (ex: ZDT). The trailer made me laugh when I saw it in the theater because of its ridiculousness and I quickly wrote the movie off, but I’ve been impressed by everyone’s analysis of its social commentary. Those messages about excess, race, and class, plus everything I’ve been reading about James Franco’s memorable performance have me interested to see it. Just a matter of whether I’ll catch it in theaters or wait a couple of months to rent it.

    • I hear you. It’s always a danger a movie will fail to live up to all the positive hype surrounding it. It’s hard, but try to forget all that when you see it and simply judge it on its own merits. 🙂

  14. Good Review. Even though there isn’t a real story going on here it still highlights the problems with the new generation in a visually cool way.

    • I thought the story of “girls out to party get in way over their heads” was harrowing. I was completely surprised with where their adventure took the audience. Did not expect that from the trailers. This wasn’t Project X.

  15. I know I’m in the minority here, though you and I generally seem to agree Mark on this one I think we’re stark contrasts, this movie didn’t work for me, my review’s up on the Monday Movie Show site http://wp.me/p1LZxf-15l

    • Normally I would say Harmony Korine is not for everyone’s taste, but here I feel he created a work that was much more accessible. I really thought he perfectly captured the harrowing descent these girls endured. Franco was a revelation.

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