October 5, 2022

Harmony Korine is either a genius, or just very lucky.

Spring Breakers has marketed itself to get us expecting one thing, then turning it on its head when you get to the theatre. I don’t know if Korine did this on purpose, but it results in the best movie I’ve seen so far in 2013, and one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theatre.

Written by Matt

Harmony Korine is either a genius, or just very lucky.

Spring Breakers has marketed itself to get us expecting one thing, then turning it on its head when you get to the theatre. I don’t know if Korine did this on purpose, but it results in the best movie I’ve seen so far in 2013, and one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theatre.

Spring Breakers tells the story of Cotty, Candy, Brit and Faith (played by Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Selena Gomez, respectively); four college girls who yearn to leave their boring town for the thrills of spring break in Florida. When they finally get there, they get mixed up with Alien (James Franco) who introduces them to the gritty, sleazy underbelly of Spring Break.

It sounds like the typical “parties and guns” type of action movie. It seems like the Project X or 21 andOver style party film we’ve grown to accept this time of year. The trailers and posters for Spring Breakers lures the fans of films like Project X and 21 and Over into the theatre, and they get what they came for, but mashed up in a blender as if to remix their expectations.

Guns, boobs, alcohol, drugs and all the other cultural staples of teen popular culture populates Spring Breakers at every turn. But they’re presented in the most defeating and dark way imaginableIt’s as if they film is trying to say to it’s audience, “Is this the culture you want? Well here it is. Take it and everything that comes with it.”

The opening images of the film show us dozens of college kids partying on the beach. Topless women have beer poured down their bare chests, frat boys guzzle alcohol through funnels and dupstep wubs loudly as the party rages. In these opening minutes, you think “now this is a party, this is where I want to be.” But as Korine repeats the images throughout the movie, you become more and more disgusted with them, as if to rethink you’re whole perspective on what is considered “fun.” The genius of Spring Breakers shows here, it’s a response to the “YOLO” generation. An indictment of everything teen pop culture holds in such high regard. It takes these images and spits them back you, showing them in a morally ambiguous light.

Many people will likely reject the movie, and I can completely understand this. The characters are completely shallow and morally reprehensible. They’re all impossible to relate to, they make ridiculous decisions, and say vapid, unbelievable dialogue that no functioning human being would ever utter. But the film doesn’t want us to take it at face value. Korine wants us to feel alienated from the characters (he literally names one Alien), the more disconnected you feel from this narrative, the more you can reflect on what you’re actually seeing. It lets us notice the moral qualms of the popular culture we take in. Are these characters any more unreasonable than those of films like Project X, 21 and Over or even the Hangover? Are these the kind of people our culture holds as role models? These are the questions Korine wants us to ask.

I still haven’t commented on the more practical elements of the film. Even if you hate the story, script and characters, it’s impossible to deny Spring Breakers looks great. Korine does an amazing job of staging each scene in a visually stunning way. The characters always stand out among both the busy party scenes and the dark, haunting violence of the latter parts of the film. There were several scenes where I was stunned by the combination of visual elements and sound. Korine daringly sets a heist montage in slow motion, with no sound except Britney Spears’ “Everytime.” It sounds strange on paper, but it asserts itself as one of the most memorable scenes in the entire film.

James Franco is just as awesome as I expected. In a role reminiscent of Gary Oldman’s Drexyl from True Romance, Franco delivers the most entertaining elements of Spring Breakers. Franco provides the movie’s most comedic moments, as well as its creepiest moments, making for one of the most entertaining characters in recent memory. As for the girls, the acting wasn’t great, but the casting was perfect. The former teenybopper actresses of Gomez, Benson and Hudgens make for an even better indictment of what teen culture considers to be an “idol,” but the actual performances felt like only a slight improvement over their days doing preteen sitcoms.

My largest complaints are relatively minor, but certainly worth mentioning. There are some logistical flaws, mostly stemming from the strange, illogical decisions the female characters insisted on making. As I mentioned above, this keeps us alienated from the characters, but at times it started to poke holes in my suspension of disbelief.

My other notable issue has to do with the final scene, I don’t want to give too much away, but it could have been shot and choreographed much better. Certain persons’ ability to handle weapons makes them look like Imperial Storm Troopers because of the poor action choreography. The scene still looks incredible in terms of lighting and production design, but the way it was shot had me once again questioning the film’s reality. But as I said, these complaints are minor compared to what the films as a whole accomplishes.

When Spring Breakers‘ final credits roll, you may feel a range of emotions: confusion, disbelief, shock or absolute pleasure. But on your way home you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. It shows us things we didn’t expect to see, and makes us question things we didn’t want to question. It takes youth culture, and all its guns, girls and gall, and throws it all back in our face, forces us to question it and makes us do some thinking we didn’t expect or want to do.