Movie Review: 'Spring Breakers' (2012)

"Spring Breakers" follows four degenerate college girls as they head to spring break after robbing a restaurant filled with customers so they can have the money to go on their dream trip. It never occurs to them to lighten up on their expensive drug habit so they can have the money without needing to commit armed robbery (with a water gun) and terrorize others in the process. At the heart of "Spring Breakers" is that key indictment.

The girls have no ambition to actually provide for themselves. They live in a culture where everything is handed to them either by (off-screen) parents or a man. There is nothing likable about this foursome. Their sole ambition in life is to drink and partake in drugs to excess, grinding on strangers in their bikinis whilst listening to soul-less and debasing music. That’s it.

No one points out to them that will be difficult to do when they are in their 40’s. This aforementioned lifestyle has a short shelf life and when the party is over they will be left with nothing; except, a drug addiction, sexually transmitted disease or even death.

Harmony Korine, the avant-garde director behind this film never makes an attempt to judge or have another character actually question the choices of the failing foursome. While on the surface, that is incredibly frustrating, it actually serves the viewer. It inclines you to engage your thought process further into what is being seen.

Korine mostly serves as a voyeur, someone catching what feels like stumbled upon events to compel us to judge what is being presented. As a result it garners a more pronounced effect. Sadly, the events portrayed in this film are an all too real reality that countless numbers of young women choose to be a part of. As evidenced by the footage of the non-stars of the film partying and making spectacles of themselves in the process.

It is clear that Korine didn’t have to go far to find willing participants to step in front of the camera. The sad part is he did not take an opportunity with this film to show the fictional girl’s suffer the all too real consequences of this behavior.

"Spring Breakers" serves as an observation of the current college climate and perhaps more pointedly, the climate of young women in America. As women face their most influential period in history, there are some like those depicted in the film; that are setting the movement back by an indiscernible amount of time.

The girls in this movie represent the millennial generation and as someone who grew up when the sexualization of teenage girls was at the forefront of discussion and scorn that did not do anything to hold off the inevitable wave of sheer rebellion that fills the spirit of any generation's youth. The film seems to blame most of the behavior in the movie on pop culture icon Britney Spears as her songs are featured twice.

For viewers looking for something fresh, they will need to keep looking. "Spring Breakers" is nothing more than a re-tread combination of Larry Clark’s "Bully" and the Anne Hathaway-starrer "Havoc" with a pinch of "Alpha Dog" thrown in for good measure. The sum of this film is less than all of their parts.

To his credit, James Franco turns in a no holds bar performance as rapper Alien who takes the girls under his wing. Costumed and styled to the hilt, he is fearless in his portrayal of what in lesser hands, could have turned into a caricature of a larger than life, ridiculous individual and made him real. A little too real at times. One scene in particular will live in infamy. In a film trying so hard to be memorable, the credit for the only unforgettable scene belongs to Franco.

As for the performance of its leads, Ashley Benson is a standout. Despite not being given much to do dialogue wise, her innate star quality shines through. She demonstrates her range in a major departure from her popular character on "Pretty Little Liars". Her character in "Spring Breakers" curses, engages in drugs and violent illegal activity and Benson goes all in, portraying all of this with great conviction.

Selena Gomez and Rachel Korine give serviceable performances, while Vanessa Hudgens gets to spend most of the film pulling her two-toned hair in front of her mouth, and smirking. As actresses there is not a lot of dialogue to work off of and character development is clearly not the script's main objective so there is not much for the cast to do, in terms of carrying out a characterization.

"Spring Breakers" is a hazy, morally irrelevant, bastion of debauchery and afterwards you will more than likely feel filthy. The one sentiment this movie captures is the boredom of youth and their constant search to feel something, anything and at any price.

It seems the characters portrayed in this movie only feel something when they are terrorizing and harming others. The only thing I felt watching this movie was revulsion. Assuming that was the point, they more than accomplished it. Rating: 6.7/10

2 comments

  1. Watched it the other day, a good review. I wouldn't have been as generous with the scoring.

    It's definitely a great production, good shots, etc.. but it feels like this story would have been more hard hitting if it was a low budget film.

    Definitely missed the mark for me. I agree that it makes the viewer 'feel' things, but there's just not enough meat in that bone for me.

    Juan

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    1. Thanks for your reply! You're the very first person to leave a comment and I really appreciate it.

      Agree with your assessment that there isn't a lot of meat to the story. It seems that Harmony Korine wasn't interested in making the "hard hitting" film you and I were hoping for. As the screenwriter of 'Kids', he's proven that he can make a serious social drama & given the final product of this movie; one could surmise he just wanted to have "fun" for a change.

      Britt

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