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Sep 24, 2014

Review: SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

            Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco, Gucci Mane, Heather Morris, Ash Lendzion, Ema Holdson, Jeff Jarrett, John McClain, Sidney Sewell, Thurman Sewell, Bethany Clegg and Kitty Buick

                    Harmony Korine

                 Where to begin? Spring Breakers is directed by Harmony Korine, a filmmaker I was unfamiliar with until now. I do however remember coming across his film "Gummo" on TV but I wasn't interested in watching it. To my knowledge, his films are usually trashy but with an 'artistic' flare as far as editing goes. I am also familiar with a few other filmmakers like him whose work has been hailed by many. A good-looking trash is still trash. I won't speak in defence or against anyone because that isn't my place but what I can do is rather mention this strange cult phenomenon that has gained momentum. Slamming others for not 'getting' a film is no a great thing, you can have hundreds of objectification and reasoning for liking something morbid but that doesn't make it my problem or something I have to follow at all cost. Spring Breakers competed for the Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival back when 'Spring break foreva!' or 'gangsta bitches' and these sorts of slogans weren't on every person's mouth, the same people who saw some sort of epic social commentary in this film yet failed to stop promoting the very thing this film seemed to condemn in their opinion. The irony! I wont be hateful to anyone in my review, just criticizing something doesn't mean I am disrespecting anyone or anything. I didn't hate this film but found many problems with it both personally and concerning its second act. There is no reason to criticize the entire film when you don't have problems with it through and through.

                 Harmony Korine admitted that he wrote this film particularly because he missed out on these spring breaks, something that always intrigued him, 'hedonistic pursuits'. At the end of the day, Korine achieved that by throwing his film completely off the rails in the second act. But first, lets talk about the plot. Spring Breakers is a story of four dear friends and college students Faith (Gomez), Brittany (Benson), Candy (Hudgens) and Cotty (Korine). Their college life is very boring, the three girls mostly spend their time partying with guys and smoking while Faith attends a local church youth group. They are all bored little girls, showing no interest or remote satisfaction in anything they do. Of course, they want to go on a spring break but they don't have the money for it. Other students of their college leaves while these girls are left behind. What can they possibly do to to get the money... ROB ROB ROB! And bamn, they are off to their spiritual experience. Partying with folks who are out of their mind. Naked sleazy bodies covered in booze and piss. A dizzying hedonistic atmosphere, bare butts and boobs, sex and drugs. The girls too bring out their inner dark side and revels in this gigantic orgy of rich-spoiled-misogynists. Slowly as the boundaries are pushed, when the girls tests their limits and are faced with dilemmas, only one of them opts out. Faith is the only girl with some sort of mind of her own, a voice within her that questions. The thing about her is that she is truly looking for something bigger that would suddenly fill up her life with meaning. Spiritual, existential or something else. Her search and the disinterest in her 'faith'.... oh Korine you devil!... is what truly prompts her to join her evil friends and go along with whatever crazy things they do in hope for reaching that place. She constantly makes reasons for the awful things her friends does or did. Realizing the awfulness yet underlining it all with "they are doing it for the right reasons". A wild night turns into a nightmare and the girls are put in jail. But hey, an angel from another world, Alien (Franco) comes to their rescue. This incident as well as the dangerous and bat-crap insane lifestyle of this bizarre gangster prompts Faith to leave for good. Korine boldly removes Faith from the narrative, the only silver-lining this film had. That leaves us with nothing but being aimless voyeurs to the hedonistic pursuits that further turns into nothing more than your straightforward crime-spree story. Gangsters, booze, drugs, murders, threesome, more murders and then more and more and more. Spring break gave way for bikini sporting gangsta babes who'll kill for thrill.

                 You don't have to personally connect with characters to like a film. Even realizing their intentions and reasoning behind it, enough strong motivations and a visible cause of their actions can let the audience walk along. It doesn't even have to be clear as well. There have been many ambiguous but strong characters and films which are always debated with great sense of interest. You don't have that here in this film. When you are left with the two out of four characters, the wrong ones, they do what they do because they want to do it. They wont learn anything from it, no awakening of any kind. They were aspiring to do this all along so at the end of the day when they walk over the dead bodies, the future for them is as bloody as the pink color that fills up the frame suggests. A twisted path that they chose to walk and came out of it with no realization whatsoever. Korine's suggestion, if any, is that when you have guns, drugs and booze in your hands, you can conquer the world. Those who hesitate are left behind. It is also a fun path to take because that is the world. Unfortunately, he never paints a hefty enough picture. The direction of the plot and the very nature of the narrative in this film is so loose that it never goes anywhere until the end where you realize that all Spring Breakers wanted to say was... "Spring break forever bitch!". A vapid and fairly confused film as far as its basic concept goes, it elicits reactions that are fairly representative of who a person is himself. Spring Breakers was never going to deliver lessons or was going to aspire to do such a thing. It still elicited a cautious sense of awareness inside me that already existed. No humanity or any drive of it in a series of nasty montages. Even in the midst of all this was a surprisingly great use of a Britney Spears song to a series of crime spree footage and a piano. The cinematography here is undoubtedly good. The visual style and its density overwhelming. The beauty of it alarmingly pleasing. The dub-step sound scape guilty pleasure. The (sometimes childish/repetitive) voiceovers and good use of memory/flashforwards to moronic actions of the characters, ironic and troubling. While done to death but the montage style of this film doesn't annoy one all the time. That is your surface level goodness but beneath all that, you are left with almost nothing. Which is why I am so all over the place with the things I like about this film and the things it does wrong or intentionally... never goes for in the first place. The violence and its absurd takeover in the second act turns this flick into a straight up gangster crime spree, making it nothing more than a fantasy porn fulfillment.

                 Spring Breakers at the end of the day is nothing but a chilled fizzy drink, you have it every day despite knowing that is bad for your health. It objectifys women, an onslaught of bikini on or bikini off. Pushing these disgusting norms even further by serving this dish with beautiful neon colors and 'artistic' editorial techniques. Korine has always been a filmmaker who liked to have fun, his subject is always trash. Why mistake his latest for a moral high ground masterwork? Even if Korine intended to say something with this film, it was all lost in translation. You can't have fun and despise the very thing at the same time. Whatever commentary he wanted to do on the unfortunate rise of rotten commercialism and degrading moral lows of the current youth, he instead jumped head over heels in it himself. What you are left with is a crazy, unrecognizable and strangely engrossing performance by James Franco. A dizzying, hypnotic and sensory experience thanks to the cinematography and editing. It is an experience all right! Not a good one but pretty colorful, neon-lit, candy-colored hellish. The tunes and the outburst of pure aesthetics never lets you draw completely out from this film. Spring Breakers remains an average titillation, not even a balls out provocative one. The characters disgusts and their actions repulse but Korine captures it all with giddy excitement. There is no empowerment here, no spiritual awakening. There have been better satires on the twisted American Dream. There is nothing much funnier, dramatic or effective about this film. It's a mixed bag of colors, lights, tunes, debauchery and guns crazy teen girls.

Grade: C-