Review: Spring Breakers
Directed by: Harmony Korine.
Starring: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco, Ashley Benson.
College friends Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are bored with the state of things and want to go, as many others already have, on spring break. Pooling their monies together, when they still don’t have enough to even consider the cost of the travel, hotels and spending money, Candy, Brit and Cotty successfully rob a diner, getting away with more than enough cash to afford their holiday. Faith, a Christian who attends regular bible groups is concerned over the others’ actions, but agrees to go on the trip with them.
Arriving in Florida, the girls live a care-free life, having fun at non-stop parties where everyone is drinking and using drugs, ultimately winding up in jail after police are called to one of them. At their arraignment, they are offered the choice of paying a fine or spending further time in jail, but have no money left to pay the fine and face having to contact their parents and reveal the truth of their situation. Before this, the girls are surprised to be bailed out by a man calling himself Alien (James Franco), a gangster at the court since his associates were being charged, who saw them and though that the girls were special. Alien reveals to them his business of dealing in drugs and guns, and sets about enticing the girls to join him in his criminal enterprise.
This is the latest movie from director Harmony Korine, and Spring Breakers is no exception to his controversial style. The movie attempts to show the world as it is seen by teen eyes through the world of spring break, a teen festival where the entire summer is spent partying and drinking. This involves flooding the screen with copious amounts of wild party scenes that we’ve seen before in recent time like the comedy/spoof found footage movie Project X. Unfortunately, like those movies, Spring Breakers focuses far too much on style heavily over substance, and though it tries to delve into the exploitation genre with the latter part of the movie’s weakened plot, it doesn’t do enough to do this.
This has been noted as the movie that actresses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, typically Disney type actors, have made conscious decisions to take roles in purely to be in a controversial adult themed movie, in an attempt to break that image of themselves. While Spring Breakers does fit that bill, in one of their cases in particular, the character doesn’t do anything and in essence plays it safe, leaving early on without ever being heard from again, and that’s a symptom of the movie’s main issue – throwaway main characters.
All of the main characters are stereotypical ones that we have seen before and not distinguishable enough to make them matter or make you particularly care about them. There’s the bible loving innocent girl, there’s an air of white trash, one of them has brightly dyed hair, oh and they all sit around in college and do drugs. Even James Franco’s Alien, which is a genuinely impressive performance as a sleazy gangster and wannabe rapper who deals drugs and guns, is taken straight out of about twenty different movies. It’s a great, genuinely disturbing character, but given the movie’s lack of any real story or real attempt at a decent narrative, he doesn’t have much to do except for screaming “Spring break!”, and ending practically every sentence with “y’all”.
None of the other main characters are half as fleshed out as him, and none of them make decisions in the movie because they are motivated to, but more often just because the script needs them to in order to move the story along. After a cocaine filled evening of sitting around (where did they get the money for the drugs?) the girls then rob the diner, when the girls meet Alien, one of them steps forward to get into his car to which the others object and then we cut to them all in the car with no further objections. And it’s not only the writing of the character and their performances that annoy either, it’s also the way in which the movie has been filmed.
Most movies have a three act structure, this movie at most has two, and even then it’s a very weak two acts. It feels so stretched out as a great deal of the movie is just footage of the girls hanging out, occasionally with dialogue when it appears they felt like it, other times just full of shots showing spring break parties, full nudity and all, gratuitously showing spring break but never really delving below the surface. It’s a style of filming that’s so filled with slow motion, flashy editing, cinematography and a bass pumping soundtrack, that it doesn’t feel at all a movie, what it feels closest to is a 90 minute MTV music video. By the time the movie starts to show signs that it does intend to have some form of a narrative, its well past the point that you care about the movie or it’s characters.
I get why some main characters leave the movie early on, but once they leave they are never heard from, or mentioned again, and that is another issue, that there’s no real consequence to the events we see in the movie. As already mentioned, this movie doesn’t feel like it’s complete as it has no ending act, which would show the characters that left and how they had changed when they got back home, how the events that we saw had affected them. Even for the ones that do remain in the movie right up to the end, we get a glimpse at them in what can only be described as a postcard ending.
Spring Breakers is a controversial movie yes, but it’s biggest failing is that with controversy there needs to be some kind of observation, comment or statement about a subject to essentially shock the audience into thinking “wow, that really showed me” regarding a particular subject, so that the viewer thinks differently about something that they had never though about before. This movie doesn’t have that, it’s just a flashy MTV music video stretched out to 90 minutes which neither engages it’s audience mentally or entertains them viscerally.