This post is designed towards giving away too much information – putting it simply, spoilers.
Everything you’d know before watching Spring Breakers will most likely work against it. The over hyped sexual context, the lack of clothes, the Disney graduates and last but not least, the egoistic James Franco. Yet, Harmony Korine manages to create a harmonized multidimensional story that actually feels authentic if you stop watching 10 minutes before the actual end.
With all the promotional images going around, I more or less doubted the effect Spring Breakers would have on me. Then I remembered reading a positive review and thought, oh well, watching it won’t hurt. This was a good idea because this movie was full of surprises from start to end, and most of them positive ones from acting to the actual story telling part of the movie. Whilst there were small errors among those two, the strength of the movie, the usage of the script and the post production, over shadowed it immensely.
From the beginning, Korine played around with the narrative of the story and that won me over big time. There were scenes from a party on the beach used throughout the movie and characters talking over it. While I thought, oh great, such a stupid thing to have somebody narrating over the movie – I was proven wrong when the actual conversation was brought back with a scene. Korine played around with it a lot, had scenes from the past or the future jump in between the plot and different characters reading over those images. Afterwards, that text was somewhat repeated as the story progressed into that specific place where the characters originally told the story inside the plot. I know I’m not doing this movie any justice by trying to explain this, one has to see the movie to understand my rant, but what I’m trying to say is that the way Korine used the narrative of the story was simply gorgeous. Plus, the indie artsy feel of it that was apparent the whole time makes me like Korine as a director as well – I know, I’m surprised myself. I think the promotional stuff was too sexy for what the movie was actually about and the surprise makes Spring Breakers even better.
That was the reason why the topless girls, sexual context and the numerous booty shots didn’t make the movie look cheap. It was the fact that Korine showed reality (which I assume because spring break is legendary for its crazy parties) and did it in an artsy way – good artsy. He even played around with the camera filters that would distort the quality of the image. All of that won me over and somehow the story felt more sophisticated, even though crazy girls in bikinis drinking and doing drugs don’t seem that smart. Before getting to the characters, I want to add that there was one element that felt a bit off putting at first but then kind of grew on me – the gun shot sounds between the scene changes. At times it worked well, sometimes it was too much but in general, I’m praising Korrine for trying out something so different.
Now, the four girls in the center of all the attention were Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Faith (Selena Gomez) and Cotty (Rachel Korine). I’m going to be frank about these girls, two were surprisingly good, one was as good as her character allowed her to be and the fourth one felt the odd one out. There’s no doubt that the weakest was the wife of the director, Rachel Korine, because somehow she never fitted in with the Disney girls. Always doing her own thing, always looking a bit clueless and though she was the only one who went topless for the movie out of the four, it didn’t do her any good. Gomez wasn’t my favorite but at least I thought she fitted the role she was given – a scared little girl looking for adventure. The fact that her character decided to leave was brilliant, I’m so glad that it happened because it fitted the point I got from the movie that I’ll discuss a bit later.
Spring Breakers stand out moments happened when Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens were on the screen. Well done Disney but I won’t be thinking of you anymore. The two played close friends Brit and Candy and their chemistry was just right to be a little bit scary. While the two other girls felt out of place at times, Benson and Hudgens fitted that spring break party scene as well as each other. If you add Alien (James Franco) to the mix, the plot gets disturbingly good at times. While I hated Franco in Oz, I loved Franco here because he played a bad guy and he played him well. Alien was off putting, arrogant and at times, crazy to a point of scary and if you imagine Franco with tattoos and silver teeth grills– Alien’s character was almost perfect. The selling point for me was the scene where Alien confronted Faith: Gomez looking all innocent and crying while Franco drools over her. Add Korine’s play with narrative with the montage to that and the scene worked wonders on many layers, such wonders that from that moment on I decided that I liked Spring Breakers a lot.
The story continued, the two girls I didn’t like in the first place left and Benson, Hudgens and Franco had their well deserved spot light moments. Though I prefer they gun play scene in the bedroom to the pool fun, I don’t mind the threesome sex scene in the long run because it added context to the characters. Everything, up until the final scene, worked in terms of adding something to the characters. Gomez represented the kind of girl who wants to be bad but is too good at heart. When she left, I was downright glad and not because I didn’t like Gomez that much but because otherwise her character wouldn’t have worked that well. Cotty left because she got shot, also something that worked because by then the idea was to show the breaking points. Everybody will have that moment when the reality kicks in and even spring break eventually ends.
The point of the movie for me was just that, all that fun – drinking, drugs, making out with girls, robbing, having pool threesomes – all that spring break type of fun will, at some point, become too much. Even the craziest girls, Brit and Candy, had their moment of clarity that was a bit too late in my opinion but everything can’t be perfect. Though how I wished the movie had been perfect because then it would have meant so much more. The point was to show that fun ends somewhere and for some reason Brit and Candy never seemed to end it. Maybe it was also something Korine wanted to show, some girls are just crazy and unstoppable but it didn’t work with that final shootout scene. First of all, it was unrealistic as hell and secondly, it didn’t really show the mental impact on Brit and Candy. Faith and Cotty both had very clear breaking points and I kind of wished that for the other two as well but then again, maybe they were never meant to have that moment.
To wrap this enormously long post together I’ll try to summarize the previous. I liked a lot about this movie, from the technical side to the plot. I loved the chemistry between Hudgens, Benson and Franco while I wasn’t won over by Gomez nor even remotely interested in Korine. I hated the ending, I just didn’t see the realism in that and for a movie that managed to make everything look and feel so real at times, it was just awful. What I do think is that Spring Breakers is a very clever movie and not all will get the appeal through the layers Harmony Korine has piled up. On the surface it’s about stupid girls doing stupid things on spring break, the drugs, the boobs, the sex. Beneath all of that is a much more problematic tale of girls who are fearless and look life almost like it’s just a movie or a video game. Will everybody get to see under the surface? Maybe not, but I’m glad I did because while I was expecting to hate everything about it, I ended up loving a lot more than I thought.
PS: Did anyone else think that the Britney Spears tributes were spot on and almost like clever in that symbolic meaning kind of way? Yes, Disney, I’m looking at you!