Review of Spring Breakers

Review of Spring Breakers

On Friday at 1:50 PM, I went to see one of the first Poughkeepsie showings of the much-hyped film Spring Breakers. This may prompt one to ask:

Q: Josh, as a young liberal intellectual, why would you choose to see a film with former Disney princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, that seems to serve as an excuse to show bare flesh and flashy visuals?
A: Because the film isn’t just that. Oh, and because James Franco gives one of the most interesting and bold cinematic performances that I have ever seen.

To be fair to its detractors, Spring Breakers does include more breasts that almost any other wide-release film in history and might contain more blunts than all of the Harold & Kumar films combined. However, if you think that Spring Breakers endorses partying, irresponsibility, or bad behavior, then you probably haven’t seen the film. Spring Breakers is littered with voiceover, much of which consists of phone calls and voicemails from the four titular protagonists (Gomez, Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine) to their relatives. These voiceovers are entirely ironic, as comments about how “spiritual” spring break is in St. Petersburg, Florida are matched with images of bong-hits, sexual exploitation, and (towards the end) sudden acts of violence. Thus, Spring Breakers is effectively a cautionary tale wrapped up in the dressing of a day-glo party.

Despite this hidden intention of the movie, Spring Breakers is still far more fun than it is disturbing. This is almost entirely attributable to James Franco’s gonzo performance as wanksta/aspiring rapper Alien, which is sure to dominate all post-film discussions. He is at once utterly ridiculous (his look can be summed up as a white Lil’ Wayne), yet incredibly creepy. The former portrait is seen through two quotable monologues shortly after he enters the film. The first monologue tells of his background and dreams, while the second recounts his “shit.” These monologues are so crazed and unique that they dramatically alter the tone of the film. From this point forward, Spring Breakers becomes even more unconventional and unpredictable than before, cementing the film’s cult-classic appeal.

Writer/director Harmony Korine (who is probably best known for writing the controversial 1995 film Kids) is going for provocation with Spring Breakers. This starts with its relentlessly unique style[1] and continues through its casting choices.[2] While I disagree with them, arguments that the film is either sexist[3] and/or racist[4] have a lot of validity. Still, I would say that dismissing Spring Breakers as an example of empty exploitation would be a mistake. The film will be not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is fascinating and strangely relevant. Post-film discussion should be plentiful and I expect the divisive reactions to continue as Spring Breakers reaches more viewers.

[1] The film is filled with aggressive dubstep music, odd lighting, weird shot-selection, and repetitious images and dialogue. Most people will either love or hate these aspects of the film.

[2] I can’t imagine that die-hard fans of The Wizards of Waverly Place will appreciate the film. The teenage girls near me in the theater seemed mortified.



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