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Spring Breakers – Movie Review

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Spring Breakers – Movie Review

Rating: A-  (Great)

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Leave it to a director known for offbeat and surreal work to make a film that turns the beach party genre on its head and fools the audience into thinking they are in for a different ride. Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers does exactly that by throwing former Disney Channel stars in bikinis on the poster and in return, we are treated to a film that has more to say than the average party flick. This is definitely a divisive film and one that will annoy a lot of viewers. However, I found it to be an hypnotic, kinetic and unique piece of art that is certainly different, but not overtly so that it becomes distancing. I have long held the notion that simply because a movie is strange and has an original concept does not make it creative. It can be absolutely self-indulgent and insulting to its audience. Thankfully, Spring Breakers does not fall into this trap.

Early on, Korine tricks the audience by opening the film with a montage consisting of basically breasts and beer. For the first act, Spring Breakers is a standard party film with constant shots of drunk youths acting rowdy in the Floridian sun. It is essentially an exploitation film, but Korine still manages to do plenty of creative tricks with the camera and editing. All of this is inter-cut with sequences of Selena Gomez’s Faith waxing philosophically about her mundane life. Those are the first hints that the rest of the film will take a drastic detour. From the start, it is also evident what Harmony Korine’s thesis is (though the interpretations will certainly vary from viewer to viewer). Spring Breakers is about the deconstruction of youthful innocence. This is not just through the obvious imagery of sex and drugs, but in how the screenplay juxtaposes them.

The casting of actresses known for Disney fare is a large part of this message. Seeing Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens smoke hard drugs and act sexy is enough to immediately notice how Korine mixes two contrasting images together. This is further highlighted by the use of preschool shows in the background of smoky rooms and innocent phone calls amidst scenes of gun violence. The most obvious element is utilising sugary-sweet Britney Spears songs in the soundtrack, while the girls commit violent crimes in a montage. Considering the pop star was a former Disney starlet herself, Spring Breakers could also act as a take on Spears’ downward spiral from good girl to drug-addled problem child. This makes the usage of Gomez and Hudgens even more brilliant.

The young actresses all play the Spring Breakers quite well, some more than others. Selena Gomez has already proven herself to be a talented actress, from her sitcom and other film projects. With her first adult role, Gomez does not go quite as far as her co-stars, but this is still an arm’s length away from the Alex Russo character that made her famous. She brings a natural sweetness to the role, but still manages to swipe away her Disney image and never turns back. Her big scene, in which she is required to cry, is proof enough of her versatility and I think she will be that rare Disney actor to have a successful career that lasts many years. Rachel Korine also gives a layered performance, with Ashley Benson further providing some strong work. Even Vanessa Hudgens, who has yet to impress me, manages to bring some believability to one of the nastier characters in the film. Meanwhile, James Franco completely changes into another personality with his rapping drug dealer. Using dialogue consisting primarily of slang, Franco is both humourous and bizarre with the outlandish Alien. He brings a sense of uncomfortable uncertainty with his character to the point where his intentions are both clear and un-clear at the same time. Yet while he could have overshadowed the lead actresses, he does not get in their way.

One technical element of note in Spring Breakers is the digital cinematography. Benoit Debie uses colour exceptionally well, especially for the nighttime sequences in which the bikinis are highlighted and practically glowing against the dark backdrop. Even a scene set in a bathroom has an impressive glow around it and Debie appropriately transitions through different styles and looks to evoke the right feeling. Korine transitions smoothly, too, in his writing as the jump from exploitation to crime thriller does not feel jarring. The actions of the girls are believable and he is also able to write them individually, rather than as generic party girls. Each Spring Breaker represents how far we might go in our actions. Some might leave before things get too serious, while others might completely drown themselves in the seedy underbelly of our society.

What will certainly make or break Spring Breakers for many people is the abrupt ending. When it feels like there is another twenty minutes in the running time, Korine cuts the story short in order for us to interpret what happens next. This will infuriate many, but it certainly is an ending that seems more true to life.  Spring Breakers has neither a happy nor a sad ending, but it does manage to develop the characters further. Sometimes, there are no consequences to our actions and the future is uncertain. Innocence and youthful wonder might remain intact for some, but other people might destroy all fragments of that and enter a darker world and mindset they will not escape from. Many people mature in different situations and way than others. Harmony Korine does not make certain characters’ motivations clear, but it fits into the moral message he is delivering. Again, those hoping for a party flick will be very disappointed and this is definitely a very different type of coming-of-age story.

As is evident, Spring Breakers is not an ordinary movie and expectations will be played with constantly, while viewing it. It will definitely not appeal to all tastes and this is definitely aimed at a very specific niche. Harmony Korine is not a filmmaker I have delved into before and snippets from his other works show they are not the sorts of films I tend to enjoy. However, Spring Breakers showcases he does not make films to be enjoyed. He makes films that are like a shot to the brain and one certainly needs to be prepared in order to properly view them. Needless to say, those who simply want to see Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens in bikinis might be quickly bored by the proceedings here. Those who want to see them grow up and mature their acting chops will definitely be pleased. However, you will also experience even more than simply actresses taking a 180 degree turn from their family-friendly images.


spring breakers movie review

spring breakers movie review

By: Stefan Ellison


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