FILM: Spring Breakers

Certificate: 18
Running Time: 94 mins
Director: Harmony Korine
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco
Genre: Crime, Drama
Country: USA

Four friends decide to rob a restaurant in order to fund the spring break of their dreams in Florida.  While there, they find themselves arrested on a drugs charge only to be bailed out by a local drug-dealer who has taken a shine to the bikini-clad quartet.
When you said you were "seeing this asshole" I thought you meant
proctology, not dating Bieber.
The comparisons between Harmony Korine’s written & directed Spring Breakers and Larry Clark’s Kids are all too easy to make.  Not only do you have a story of the underbelly of the disconnected yoof of today but Korine cut his teeth as an uncredited club kid in, what was then, the most shocking and shockingly underrated movie of a generation.  His time on Kids appears to have played a huge part in forming his perspective on life.

This is a movie that, unsurprisingly, came with very mixed reviews upon its release.  Its mainstream casting pushed it into a brighter spotlight than it would have arguably been given otherwise.  Its indie demographic, perhaps, disconcerted by the names above the title.  Add to that the Studio’s trouble with figuring out exactly how to market this movie without playing on the sexuality of the leads and suddenly there’s something of a void where an audience should be.  It’s ever so slightly criminal how poorly received this film has been.  Does it have issues?  Which movie doesn’t?!  But it’s clever.  It’s much cleverer than it is given credit, to which I attribute by all the T&A shaking that accompanies spring break and the marketeers’ decision to focus predominantly on that.
Britney denies her staging has gotten lazy.

Korine is a cast-iron product of Generation Y writing about Generation Y-not(?!).  This is a generation of children that have been raised against the backdrop of 9/11, George W. Bush's Wyatt Earp approach to International politics and almost commercialization of violent crime in the U.S. A generation that's told "do it and if you get caught you can always blame television... movies... video games".  The most important part of the message to them is that self-responsibility is a dirty, hyphenated word.  Korine takes this schooling of these kids and applies it as logic to his film's world. The conception, glorification and sexualisation of violence is standard.  It' only really considered shocking by those witnessing it who have not been indoctrinated by that message.  Similarly, consequences are "for other people", something that happens to my brother's-friend's-sister's-fiance in one of those stories that so-and-so overheard while getting a handy at the back of a bus.  It takes an incredibly skilled writer to be able to deliver that as a universal reality and not have it come across as contrived, artificial or even bullshit-candy-box romanticism. Korine's script does this wonderfully. His lens captures it almost subjectively (again, thanks to his exposure of Larry Clark), and his performers not only understand this but convey it faultlessly.

The look of the movie is almost a direct contradiction to the narrative subtext laced through the script.  Where the writing is considered, deep, and rich the visual aesthetic is bubblegum asses in g-strings and sugar-coated cinematography… but intentionally.  There is a very clear message to be taken from Spring Breakers and not to give too much away it’s one that is ever so slightly frightening as we breed a generation of children so disconnected from the terrors of violence that it almost becomes just another mode of self expression.
Two beer-battered breasts, large fries and a Diet Cola please.
Vanessa Hudgens (as Candy) is actually very good.  Previous to this the most I would have been exposed to her was Journey 2 (because The Rock was in it), Sucker Punch [review here] (because it looked so damn good), and High School Musical 3 (because I lost a bet) but she’s a performer with a lot of talent and even more potential once you get passed her looks.  Selena Gomez (Faith) is also strong.  Not as strong as Hudgens, and there were a handful of moments when you feel her holding back where a more seasoned professional would have fully committed but that’s understandable.  Ashley Benson (Britt) gives a finely tuned performance.  Her best scenes are alongside Hudgens.  The pair make each other better but the standout performance belongs to James Franco.

Franco is one of those artists (and whether you like him or not he is an artist as he’s a writer, director, actor) who is consistently inconsistent.  One moment he’ll be releasing a collection of short stories, the next directing a Hemingway adaptation, and the third making Your Highness.  It always feels like his path is a lot more muddied and overgrown than others; but that’s also part of what’s exciting about him when he gets something right.  We recently posted a Papercut Review of Oz the Great & Powerful [here]… I’ll save you the two hours… it sucks, now go knit a sweater or something with the time saved.  In Spring Breakers though, he is Drexl Spivey on uppers.  His performance as Alien is intoxicating.  Sure, his physical appearance is completely different but that’s not what’s brilliant about his time on-screen… at least, not entirely.  There is a complex, combustibility to him in this role.  He seems to really understand this character and as such the lines between Alien and James Franco aren’t just blurred, they dissolve.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a performance that has caused me to forget that there was an actor behind those lines but Franco gives that in Spring Breakers.
When FHM met IRA
Yes you can draw comparisons between Spring Breakers and Kids, you can draw them between it and Party Monster also but Spring Breakers is a strong, fearless, movie in its own right.  So many people will watch it and dismiss it as bullshit titillation for sad old men who want to see some teenage titty without the fear of their wife finding their porn stash; or some superficial gun-loving romanticizing of violence in modern culture… but it’s neither of these things.  It’s a mirror for society.  It’s reflecting not just our beauty but our many, many flaws.  People don’t like that, which might go some way to explaining why it has been so criminally under appreciated.


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