Harmony Korine‘s latest sun-soaked dissection of today’s youth just might be one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen. Spring Breakers might present itself as the ultimate party movie for younger movie-goers, but the film is actually a cold reflection of a generation, often mixing its unique fluorescent visuals with a story of lost youth, finding one’s path and breaking out into the world. Spring Breakers will long be remembered by most for its scattered performances and constant use of nudity and profanity to represent a particular age group, but it’s the film’s slow-burn descent into a dream-like hell that will make it stick out as one of 2013’s most distinct films.
Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are bored college students that cannot wait to get the hell out of town to enjoy their spring break. They’ve grown sick and tired of their day-to-day life and have reached the breaking point. No more can they drown themselves among other lost students hoping to find a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Their tunnel is slowly closing as they realize that their funding for such a trip is short.
Almost without hesitation they quickly plot a robbery to ensure them some dough for their Florida trip and the next thing you know they’re partying with other crazy kids by sundown. The alcohol begins to flow and the drugs start getting passed around as the group of girls experiment with everything under the sun in what appears to be a typical college getaway for most students. One thing leads to another and they find themselves in a jail cell, with no money or way of getting out, until a mysterious white rapper by the name of Alien (James Franco) bails them out.
Alien is an interesting character, one that claims to literally be from another planet, but in reality is just a warm-hearted softie on the inside and a tough drug dealer on the outside. He presents the girls with a new life, full of money, drugs, boos and virtually everything at their fingertips. He’s living his version of the American dream and the girls see this as an opportunity to find themselves and within a matter of days they become full-fledged criminals.
Spring Breakers isn’t the party movie that most young audience members will be seeking out around this time of year. It’s not even a simplistic crime drama or comedy. It’s a film that operates on multiple levels, often blurring the genres and becoming one big experiment that will test your tolerance and acceptance not just of today’s youth, but of people in general.
Director Harmony Korine presents a unique batch of characters, varying from the church-going Faith to Alien — the most bizarre “gangster” that you’ll ever meet. Each character is vastly different from the last, while at the same time they all share a common dream, which can only be described as the American one. It’s an interesting dream, one that is surely frightening, but one that gets caught in most people’s mind. The idea of money, power and overall control, which is what Alien thinks he has and what the girls think they want.
Korine is a director that I’m not very familiar with, which simply means that I had absolutely no real expectations for Spring Breakers. It looked like a straight-forward party flick with an art house vibe to it and to an extent that is exactly what the film is. It’s marketed perfectly, drawing in actual spring breakers for a film that promises a good time, but then it sticks to you like an overcooked sunburn after a week full of mistakes. Spring Breakers slowly descends into a dream-like hell as Brit, Candy, Faith and Cotty are sucked into Alien’s world and the people that inhabit it.
James Franco turns in a career-best performance here, one that’s both hilarious and at some moments startling. Alien might present himself as a walking joke, but the actual character is given enough context to really hit it home. Korine and Franco work together to make him one of the most memorable characters on film in years and I’m glad that both men understood just how far to take Alien without ruining his credibility as one truly bizarre and confused soul.
The girls are played with massive amounts of upbeat energy and hostility by Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson. Gomez represents the innocence of the bunch, while Hudgens, Korine and Benson best display the group’s darker side. Their performances don’t glow as much as Franco’s turn as the Calvin Klein-wearing rapper, but they present the film’s layered story, which can be picked apart for days.
Spring Breakers is such a hard film to discuss, because there’s so much going on at once. Each and every line of dialog between Alien and the girls can be picked apart and given several meanings, while Korine’s visuals help present the film’s often-times hazy and discombobulating state of mind. Nothing about the film is crystal clear. Everything rests in between right and wrong or black and white, making for a think piece film that works better with multiple viewings.
There’s so much I’d like to explore in Spring Breakers, but I almost feel like another viewing is required before being able to really dive deeper into the material and what to make of all of it. What I can say is that Harmony Korine has made a film that I can’t put a finger on to classify. It doesn’t belong to a certain genre or even a particular audience. Spring Breakers is constantly shifting and shaping into a film that one simply doesn’t watch, but one that you must invest into in order to see the bigger picture.
I like Spring Breakers, but I feel like over time I’ll grow to love it.
Spring Breakers – 8/10