Saturday, March 23, 2013

Movie Review: Spring Breakers

For those unfamiliar with Harmony Korine's film-making, sitting through Spring Breakers must feel like being tricked into smoking crack. Luckily, having seen his 1997 film, Gummo, I came in with an idea of what to expect. No, the opening montage of beer-soaked tits and ass bopping and bouncing on the beach to the unrefined womps of Skrillex couldn't fool me. Shit was about to get really uncomfortable.

Best friends since kindergarten, college girls Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine), and Faith (Selena Gomez) pout in cabin fever. With only a few hundred dollars between them, their plans to live out their mtv Spring Break fantasies seem dismal. However, a quick diner robbery sets their trip in motion, catalyzing a runaway train of debauchery that has them bouncing between chaotic St. Petersburg motels, lands them in jail, and eventually in the hands of Alien (James Franco), a local drug and arms dealer with an aspiring rap career. 

Faith, the meek anchor of intelligence and lone semblance of a conscience in the group, wisely takes off, while the other three girls lavishly test the limits of this newly discovered underworld. The subsequent inevitability of disaster introduces Archie (Gucci Mane, a rapper with an ice-cream cone tattooed on his face), Alien's former best friend turned rival gangster. From here onward, the train-wreck commences in unfortunate fashion.
I find myself asking how a movie can possibly offer so much of too much while lacking so much. The script, with its repetitious dialogue and flimsy third act, was a glorified outline, with characters just as hollow (save Franco). I question if my impulse to review it is authentically cathartic. A part of me feels it is necessary for my emotional well-being, while another voice insists there is no point in elaborating on such a masturbatory event.  

If Korine does one thing well, it is masquerading freak-show caricatures of American dementia in the faces of his viewers, and his signature harshness is particularly fitting and arguably necessary for the elements of Florida portrayed in Spring Breakers. It is a damning indictment in and of itself and works as art of some sort, but not as a feature film. As ring leader of such a depraved circus, Korine offers no solutions but, like Gomez's character along with a good third of the people in my theater, to gather oneself and leave. 

 Clearly, this is a film that relies on irony and shock-value, but the vacancy of its message is too cruel to call "satire." Any cinematic redemption comes at the hands of master cinematographer, Benoit Debie (Enter the Void), and an ingenious performance by Franco. Sadly, not even Alien's hilarious "look at all my shit!" routine, as he flaunted his guns, drugs, and money for the girls, could bring it together; Nor could his piano rendition of Britney Spears' "Everytime," the stylistic peak of the film.

 Korine's garbage nixes the wit and charm that made trash-cinema such as early John Waters films lovable, opting instead for an anger that is fundamentally lazy. What had potential as a fresh and scathing caricature of the hedonism and nihilism rampant today in pop-culture fell far short of its satirical aims and was left wading in the shallow current of those very waters.


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