Spring Breakers (2013)
And just like that, my college career has never seemed more boring.
Spring Breakers is about four girls going to college in a dead-end town. All they want to do is get the hell out of dodge, so they start saving up their money in the hopes of going to Florida for spring break. When the big day finally arrives, they realize they’re short on funds, but rather than settle for a good old-fashioned staycation, they stick up a local restaurant to finance the trip. Next thing they know, they’re living it up down in Florida with more booze, drugs and horny teens than you can shake a stick at. One thing leads to another and they find themselves arrested for their lecherous ways, but wouldn’t you know it, they wind up getting bailed out by Vanilla Ice’s evil twin. They go back to his place, start enjoying the life of a trigger-happy drug dealer, and since it is spring break and all, it isn’t long before they’re living like trigger-happy drug dealers, too.
When my wife asked me over the weekend why on Earth I was going to see Spring Breakers, I really didn’t have a good answer for her. I nervously mumbled that it wasn’t what it looked like, tried to legitimize my decision by mentioning that the director did Kids (which sounds way worse out loud than it does on paper), then quickly changed the subject when I realized I had lost the battle. The fact of the matter is that it’s hard to tell someone you’re going to see Spring Breakers without getting written off as That Guy going to That Movie, the one with Disney Channel’s greatest hits gallivanting in bikinis the whole time.
But in my defense, it is by the guy who did Kids, and anyone who’s ever seen a Harmony Korine movie knows that bikini-clad popcorn fluff is not going to be on the menu. Still, I don’t even like Kids, I actually can’t stand it, but some part of me just to find out what the hell was going on with this thing. It couldn’t be 90 minutes of fun in the Sun driven by bad decisions and sex appeal. It just couldn’t be. Right?
And then the credits starting rolling.
And then the title came up.
And then the dubstep kicked in.
And then we’re on a beach, the camera zooming in on one topless girl after another. They grind, they funnel, and they smile for the camera while jocks pour beer over them for five minutes straight.
And there I was, That Guy at That Movie.
I’d like to say that I was misled, but at the end of the day, I only have myself to blame. I knew all too well what kind of movies Harmony Korine makes, and for some reason I thought that this time it would be different. It’s not unlike the naive optimism I have every time I go into a Lars von Trier movie. “Maybe this ending will be a happy one,” I say to my chipper self. Three hours later, Kirsten Dunst is getting blown up by a planet and there I am, crying on the inside asking strangers for a hug. And while Spring Breakers is by no means the soul-crusher of an experience that Kids is, it still has Harmony Korine written all over it.
For those unfamiliar, Harmony Korine is in the business of two things: white trash nightmares and parents’ worst nightmares. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that this little ditty falls comfortable in the latter category as it’s exactly the kind of getaway that would keep a couple from reproducing. Cocaine and liquor? Check. Armed robbery? Check. Prison time? Check. Knocking boots with a drug-dealer who keeps The ATL Twins for company? Unfortunately, check. With that being said, and even if you’re not a parent, don’t be all that surprised if everything that’s so exploitative and abrasive about this movie offends the hell out of you long before it’s over. That’s just Harmony Korine, and the sooner you learn that the better.
Furthermore, all this non-stop debauchery doesn’t leave much room for story, dialogue or character development. Sure, you’ve got Selena Gomez as the God Squad member of the group who gets all conflicted about what they’re getting themselves into, and though its skeletal at best, there is a plot that eventually moves things along. But for the most part, a lot of the scenes just never seem to end, and most of them keep inexplicably cutting back to extreme closeups of boobs on the beach. As a result, it gets awfully hard to pay attention to (let alone give a shit about) what these characters are saying or doing most of the time. Ultimately, it’s tough to justify the majority of this movie as being all that different from what goes down in the first five minutes, yet depending on who you ask, it actually kinda works.
I mean, I can’t help but wonder about anyone who goes into this movie hoping for some kind of quality story, dialogue and character development. Not to belabor the point, but you’re barking up the wrong bush if that’s what your hopes set on. More than anything, Spring Breakers is, like spring break itself, an experience. The party never stops, everything looks like it was filmed from the inside of a tanning bed, and if your senses get bruised in the process, don’t expect an apology. It might not be the kind of movie you were expecting or even wanted to see in the first place, it’s the kind of movie that’s just begging for some walk-outs, but that’s also what makes this little monster so unique. It just refuses to compromise every step of the way. Not only that, but it’s often quite gorgeous to take in and gets more out of a blacklight than the back room of a head shop.
And not for nothing, but big ups to whoever the casting director was here, because getting Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens on board was quite the ingenious move. Not that it would have been any less shocking if say, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes and Snooki were playing the parts, but in the spirit of creating an all-too possible nightmare for parents of teen daughters across the globe, who better to corrupt than the role models they grew up with? Needless to say, these girls go for the gusto, and the same goes for Rachel Korine (Harmony’s wife).
As for James Franco, thank heavens for James Franco. Believe it or not, but there was a point towards the end of the first Act where I’d just about had it with these girls partying their asses off from one scene to next. It was exhausting, and one man can only squirm in his seat for so long before enough is enough. But just as the novelty was wearing off, James Franco enters into the picture as Alien, and from that point forward, everything got better. Because if there’s anything to be said of James Franco, it’s that the guy knows how to have fun in front of the camera. He knows how ridiculous he looks, he knows his name is “Alien,” so rather than do something stupid like take himself seriously, he grabs some guns off the wall and starts jumping on the bed, screaming “LOOK AT MY SHIT!” while the rest of us laugh along.
In short, he’s just what this movie needed and he couldn’t have showed up at a better time. Not to mention that he’s responsible for some of the best scenes in the whole movie (eg: robbing fools blind to the tune of Britney Spears’ “Everytime”).
Oh, and since folks keep asking me whether he’s attractive with his cornrows and platinum grill, the answer is no, he is not. I know, I know, it takes all kinds, but like the rest of this movie, he’s a parent’s worst nightmare, not a thug-life dreamboat by any stretch of the imagination. Easily one of the stranger questions I’ve fielded as of late.
Anyhow, if there’s anything to take away from this here review, it’s that Spring Breakers is effing crazy, way crazier than you’re likely expecting or even prepared for. I’m not even really sure if I liked it or not, and when pressed on the matter, “it’s interesting” has been the answer of choice. At any rate, I can appreciate it for what it is, and for better or worse, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. With that being said, there’s still no one on this planet I could imagine recommending it to in good faith, but if your curiosity’s already gotten the better of you, don’t say I didn’t warn ya’.