Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SPRING BREAKERS Review- Jonesy's Take

Directed by: Harmony Korine
Written by: Harmony Korine
Starring: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, and James Franco
Synopsis: Four college friends rob a restaurant to have the spring break of their dreams only to run into trouble when they're arrested.

Does the MTV idea of "Spring Break" actually exist? Are there places where scores of half-naked, hot twenty-somethings flock and party for seven straight days? Or is that all an illusion imposed on us by movies and reality shows? Director Harmony Korine took this "idea" of Spring Break, shook it through his bizarro mind, layered with a couple strong performances by Franco and Gomez, and poured over a liberal amount of booze, drugs, and nudity.

Four lifelong friends dream of having THE spring break experience while in college. Of course, their college life is boring; who wants to waste time in classes anyways? However, they don't have enough money to make the trip, so the three wild ones, Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine), decide to rob a local restaurant to secure enough funds. The somewhat moral compass of the group and church goer, ironically named Faith (Selena Gomez), isn't too keen on the idea, but she looks the other way because she needs escape as well. These twenty-somethings reach the age of existential crisis most college students experience. Is this college life really what I want? What happens after? Have I experienced everything I wanted up until this point?

Harmony Korine, as polarizing a filmmaker he can be, is able to develop relationships between characters with very selected bits of dialogue. There are not long, droll diatribes within this film. With a few simple exchanges, we understand all we know about the girls' relationships. At one point, Faith says she's known the other three since kindergarten, yet she is seems pretty conflicted when the three rehash their tale of robbing the restaurant once they're immersed in Miami. They needed the money, but was armed robbery the right move? Faith dances on the line between morality and rebelliousness. She doesn't want to disappoint her friends and relish in their idyllic escape, yet she still feels her church life bringing her back to reality.

Their ideal vacation comes to an end when a party gets broken up, and all four get caught with narcotics. What a deal buster. Thankfully, there's a savior, of sorts, who bail them out by the name of Alien (James Franco), a local drug dealer and rapper. Damn. Franco absolutely steals this film. His suave demeanor and silver tongue becomes enticing to the girls even though we can all see through his slick shades, cornrows, and grills that he's a sleazy douche bag who's probably extremely dangerous.

His characters is fascinating because he comes across as a wannabe gangsta who has probably watched SCARFACE too many times and figures, to be taken seriously, he needs face tattoos and a flashy car. However, at one point in the film, Alien spouts off about his life and all his shit that he owns. The speech could have come across as annoying and overly macho, but it's strangely genuine? It's very odd because, yes, it is a pompous speech, but the way Franco played it, it wasn't annoying.  It felt more proud. He had worked for his shit, and now he finally has someone, or girls, to impress. Now the girls are almost at his mercy, which a Candy and Brit find enticing and freeing. All the while, Faith begins to question the situation and whether this really is the vacation/freedom she wanted. The others are blinded by the lifestyle of Alien. Cars. Guns. Money. What more could a girl want?

In terms of the look of the film, Korine's aesthetic, at some points, feel a tad ADD-ish with quick cuts, repetitive voice overs and images, and vibrant colors. However, after seeing a couple of Korine's other films, including GUMMO and JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, he isn't arbitrary about any of his filming decisions. Now, whether we fully understand everything that goes through his mind, I doubt we will ever know. However, this is most marketable film to date. That's a strange statement because SPRING BREAKERS doesn't lend itself to mainstream audiences. It's a very smart and stylized film. Don't go into it expecting a 90 minute Girls Gone Wild movie. Sure there are semi-naked bodies all over, but if that's the main aspect you're going for, then you're missing the point. Korine explores to mythos of the college Spring Break experience and how freedom maybe isn't what it seems. Of course all spring breakers don't end up in the situation our girls find themselves in. I can't imagine that many drug dealers out there willing to take a chance on four strangers.

However, as twisted as his tale is, Korine speaks some truth of the concept of what the reality of "freedom" can cost. That might be a stretch though. His films aren't typically clear cut in themes and purpose. Maybe he's just warning parents of how their girls act when left up to their own devices, or maybe he was enacting his male fantasy of wanting to be a successful drug lord with hordes of beautiful, young ladies around. He doesn't seem that shallow though. He has a fascination with youth culture and how their ideas, which seem to lean toward the precarious side, and circumstances can shape their lives at a young age forever. KIDS delved into the world of HIV and sex and the consequences between a group of friends, and GUMMO showed the struggles of a poor, tornado savaged town's youth having next to no future and no way out. SPRING BREAKERS has minuscule hints of optimism, but it's equally as deep, troubling, and not for the swallow movie goer.

Side note...this film had the best use of a Britney Spears song I've ever seen.


  1. The film paints a fairly accurate portrait of this generation we all live in and at the same time, making a comment. For that bold step, the movie deserves praise. Nice review Jonesy.

    1. I'm not sure if it's an accurate portrait, but maybe it is. I did the whole spring break in Florida thing once, and it was lame. Nothing like this film. Then again, maybe we didn't go to the right area. But this film definitely makes many comments. I need to see it again. Thanks for the kind words!