Spring Breakers works in more ways than one. First of all, you can take Harmony Korine’s film at face value and perceive it as a lurid fever dream with a loose story integrating elements of the crime genre with a trippy punk rock attitude.
The four roles played by Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Korine’s wife Rachel Korine are charismatic enough in an entertaining train wreck sort of way as we watch these rebellious teens go down a snaky rabbit hole. They get involved with the wrong company after being bailed out of jail by a drug dealer/arms dealer/rapper named Alien (played by a well disguised and dazzlingly repugnant James Franco) and the rabbit hole goes deeper. Only a few are able to escape.
The style trumps the story as we watch the camera fall in love with black lights and its fluorescent colour palette. Korine also utilizes different types of video formats to make moviegoers feel apart of these spring break partiers; either in a way that suggests we’re at the party or watching it through a late-night infomercial after Maury Povich throws to a break.
The music, conceived by Cliff Martinez and dubstep icon Skrillex, is just as much of a star as any of the talented women in the film. The integration of lighter songs also adds a nice hint of nostalgia while bringing new life and mixed emotions to a scene. A certain montage set to a Britney Spears song pops to mind as a specific highlight, but I’ll let you discover that one for yourself when you watch this outstanding flick.
But, does the style really trump the story? Or, is it the other way around? A younger generation may not be familiar with the audacious filmmaker, but if you’ve followed Korine’s career since his screenwriting debut in 1995’s KIDS, you’ll know that he doesn’t believe that every film has to take on traditional storytelling. The film can take on a looser structure and let the characters speak for themselves. If one decides to latch onto the film and learn more about these distraught young adults, you can have just about as much fun as the fans who are there to support Gomez or Hudgens.
As far as character development goes, Spring Breakers leaves a lot up to the viewers’ imagination. It isn’t performed in a lazy way on Korine’s part, but he’s given you enough clues as to how these people think and carry out their actions for a moviegoer to draw conclusions for themselves. There isn’t a wrong answer, it’s all open for interpretation.
The film I saw was not only a statement about the impatient youth of today, but it’s also about the need for constant change amongst a modern younger generation. All four girls are looking for a change of environment. Faith (played by Gomez) wonders if there’s more to life than her religion, Brit and Candy (played with gleeful aggression by Benson and Hudgens) wonder if there’s a better place to get drunk, high, and party, and Cotty (played by Rachel Korine) follows Brit and Candy’s crassness and agrees with what they do.
All four characters are restless; you can sense it in their speech patterns. Not so much Faith – being the only sane body amongst the friends – but this is especially noticeable with Brit, Candy, and Cotty. As we watch scenes of them fooling around, standing in the rain and getting intoxicated, they repeat the same words and phrases. “We gotta get that money” and “spring break” make for a lot of their dialogue when the film is revving up.
Sure, it can get repetitive at times and Korine plays that hard game of trying to find a balance between repeating something the right amount of times and driving someone crazy – to which he’s usually successful. The thing is that the repetition means something. From the rebellious girls repeating their goals early on, to the scenes with them and Alien teasing each other over and over again, it represents just how shallow and one-track their thinking is. Going away for spring break and robbing people are dire needs and shows how desperate they are for non-stop action in their nowhere lives.
Faith’s religion isn’t the only biblical content in Spring Breakers. Their spring break destination is illustrated as a modern day, sin free paradise akin to Sodom and Gommorrah, where sex and excessive lewdness reigns and no consequences exist…until the girls’ wild ride is exposed. I’m sure there has to be more to the parallels as well with Brit, Candy, and Cotty acting as temptations to Faith’s comfortability and then those three being controlled by temptation as well when Franco’s Alien enters the picture.
Something’s to be said about the girls’ relationship to Alien. To bring up Maury Povich’s name again in a single review may seem a bit much, but during their introduction with each other, Spring Breakers feels like one of those episodes where young hellions spend a day at a prison with an inmate who had a similar past. Except instead of the girls looking at their future, they see a friend. You can feel this chemistry ignite when James Franco eyes each girl up and down. It’s a relationship that’s built on a disorderly materialistic attitude – and misery loves company.
Spring Breakers is a return to form for Harmony Korine and serves as a nice balance between his usual quirks and making something as mainstream as possible. As a moviegoer observing his sporadic career, it isn’t hard to notice Korine trying to figure out where his voice stands in today’s movies. He tried his hand with different types of formulas such as the divisive but whimsical Mister Lonely and the disturbingly unique Trash Humpers, but Spring Breakers is proof that the answer to his question was right under his nose.
With his success with KIDS, Korine shows that he has a keen observant eye for youth. Their voice, their presence, their annoyances, and their habits. Spring Breakers is the perfect project for the filmmaker because it allows him to work his perceptive skills in a modern world. While spring break may seem like an in-your-face experience involving aberrant characters, he never makes these scenes too obnoxious and unwatchable. The average moviegoer may not relate but we understand why these riotous rebels enjoy these chaotic settings.
It’s also good to note that Faith is the only one who phones home constantly to touch base with her Mom and Grandmother. We never see them or hear them, but they’re the only adults mentioned in the film who aren’t of direct authority like a police officer or a judge. Another point from KIDS that successfully transcends into Spring Breakers and rings as true – the absence of parents.
Spring Breakers is a blast and an interesting conversation starter. Everyone will have their different views on it and it may very well be this year’s most argued about film.
Harmony Korine has irked a lot of moviegoers and critics in the past with his intense works and how he presents them. I’ve always been a fan of his, but I can understand how many would consider him as much of a recluse as the girls in the movie.
With his loose storytelling theory, Spring Breakers shows that the filmmaker has grown up and knows how to attempt such a mould. It’s a sign that a lightbulb has gone off in Korine’s head and he’s worked above and beyond to prove those naysayers wrong, reassure his fans that he isn’t leaving, and to brilliantly introduce younger moviegoers to a new way to look at movies.