Spring Breakers Review
Let’s be honest. If you’ve planted your eyes on the poster accompanying Spring Breakers’ UK release within the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably made your mind up about the exploitation tendencies of this film. From the offset, our screen is littered with semi-naked college girls that frolic aimlessly to the same incessant beat, as impeccably tanned men jeer crudely at a distance. Your judgements are correct; ostensibly this is pastiche of hedonistic youths with too much to show but not enough to say. The first five minutes paint a sore, lurid image of the “Spring Break” experience. The two-week period that bridges two college terms isn’t seen as a time to reflect on what you have learned, but a time for heavy-drinking, partying and casual sex.
Here, Korine delivers a master-class in exploitation cinema. By far his most audacious film, the director blends social-realism, misogyny, and voyeurism to outline the absurdity of the youth-culture. Our heroines, in the shape of Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez), are four co-ed girls desperate for a new life. Brit and Candy sit exasperated by the monotony of their college classes, laughing raucously at their drawings of male genitalia. They aren’t concerned with anything else other than getting to Florida to celebrate Spring Break – where they can let of some steam, and engage in less-than-ladylike behaviour with their peers. One of the girls, Faith, is a naïve church-going teen that is inaugurated by her fellow gang of reprobates. She seems a calm and educated girl; ignorant to the vices of the “party-girl” mentality but, like our other heroines, falls victim to the need for self-fulfilment. Down on funds, they plan to rob a nearby restaurant. They need to finance their spring vacation, but they also want to experience the sheer excitement and rush of the crime. They never hold back, and neither does Korine; effortlessly painting them in fluorescent light throughout to show their transparent personalities.
After their violent episode, our female flock encounter Alien (James Franco), who they meet during a stint in jail. Alien is a morally repugnant, heavily tattooed wannabe gangster, who doesn’t need a second invitation to reveal his illicit views on “bitches”, and his impressive collection of military-style weaponry. Unsurprisingly, they all fall at his feet. He’s the very embodiment of the American Dream – someone who values materialism as the height of sophistication.
Whilst on the surface Spring Breakers may appear to be an amalgamation of well-known Disney channel actresses strutting around with next to nothing on for 94 minutes, Korine has shocked us all by creating an absorbing social commentary on the plight of the teenage girl perennially at odds with herself and the mundanity of a ‘normal life’. This solidly written and directed piece has its finest moment during the final third, as a wonderfully poetic scene has Franco serenading the group to a Britney Spears song. They’re dressed ready for war, armed with rifles and balaclavas, but dance like little children; their lifeless personalities, dumbed-down and inherently trashy, are visibly transparent here.
The performances are riveting throughout because Korine pushes his female leads – including his real-life wife – to their limits as they band together brilliantly for a tour de force of self-destruction. However, credit for this tale of temptation and greed should be given to Harmony Korine. Whilst some of his past cinematic projects, like Mister Lonely and Gummo, were, for me, endearing yet misguided, in Spring Breakers he has achieved a new milestone in his career with this, his most poetic film.