Spring Breakers – Too much partying, not enough story…

If ever there was a controversial filmmaker, Harmony Korine is the one to watch. He wrote the script for Larry Clark’s Kids, a disturbing tale about teens getting mixed up in sex and drugs. His own directorial debut, Gummo, was similarly shocking as was his last film, Trash Humpers, a film shot on grainy VHS video about nothing more than the nasty exploits of three people wearing geriatric masks and costumes. Spring Breakers is Korine’s written and directorial latest and he isn’t changing his usual shocking, chaotic formula for anyone…

Four teen girls at college, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez), are desperate to leave their schoolwork behind for a couple of weeks  and go on magical spring break. Problem is they don’t have the funds. Three of the girls come up with an excellent idea though: why not rob somewhere and steal the money? They are desperate after all. After the robbery they convince Faith, who wasn’t involved in the heist and who is also deeply religious, that the stolen funds won’t be missed, and pretty soon all four girls are partying it up on spring break y’all. But trouble isn’t far behind them and soon an eccentric rapper and local gangster called Alien (James Franco) has his sights on all of them.

I had been looking forward to Spring Breakers. I thought that a film all about the weird spring break lifestyle of American teens was a great backdrop for some sort of social commentary on the wild debauchery that happens there and the money that goes with it. But no, I was wrong. The story itself is utterly nonsensical. It seems as though Korine has had a one-note idea (girls go wild and get into trouble) and run with it, not really knowing what his outcome will be. Not only this but at the end of the film you suddenly realise: what is the point of all this? There is no sort of message behind the story, no commentary on the hedonism on display. There were a couple of times I thought that Korine was suddenly about to make obvious a message that was behind the film all along – the link between the partying and religion, a commentary on the violence inherent in younger people’s lives now… But every time you think that Korine is about to make a clever observation about something and unveil a theme behind his proceedings, he instead swerves it back around to more party antics…and nothing much more really.

The dialogue in the script is also so, SO bad. Cringeworthy at some points. His characterisation is completely lacking as well. Every character is 2-dimensional and at some points ridiculously stereotypical. The only one with any sort of backstory is Faith as we see her struggling to maintain her strong religious background both before and during the spring break. However this is again soon lost among the other moments of the story. The script at times suffers from another problem – Korine seriously doesn’t know how to write women. Not that there is any dimension to ANY of the characters in this, but the girls in particular behave and speak in the way he thinks they do, i.e.: constantly sexual (often with each other) and with no thoughts of their own, making them no more than cardboard cut-out characters. Particularly shocking is that for the latter part of the film they have little to no dialogue, Korine literally taking their voices away from them and making them no more than pretty things for guys to ogle.

And that leads me to another truly nasty element of Spring Breakers: the objectification of women. Ok, so obviously there are lots of girls in bikinis or even topless when on spring break – that’s what the environment is actually like so you can’t change that or not show it. But Korine’s invasive camera is horrid, lingering on the flesh of the girl’s lasciviously. This wouldn’t be so bad if it felt as though Korine was trying to comment on the objectification of women, showing how bad it was by making it so in our faces. If this is his intention though Korine doesn’t emphasise it enough to make it into a true point.

You could possibly argue that the objectification of the four main girls in the story is because they use it to their advantage to seem like four vulnerable girls up for anything, when they actually have other goals in mind. And when Alien starts to treat them like his own personal possessions to add to his mass of riches and guns, you think that Korine might be trying to discuss them literally becoming objects that he can collect. However once again when you think something is going to come from the story, it doesn’t. Although after seeing this, and thinking about it for a very long time, I believe that looking at this objectivity as having meaning behind it would be stretching it beyond what it really is – mindless shots of T and A just to try and be ‘controversial’. In fact the whole film feels like it’s been shot by a teenage boy. Grow up Korine.

There are a few small saving points in Spring Breakers though. The soundtrack by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex is excellent, both of them setting the mood for the film with more than one pumping electro song. The entire look of the film is also brilliant, Korine using a colourful neon day-glo style throughout which perfectly reflects the environment the girls end up in – non-stop nightlife and parties. There are also a couple of key scenes that are superbly shot and that will be some of the best seen all year, in particular the first heist which we only see from the outside and also an incredibly funny moment involving a Britney Spears song and James  Franco.

In fact in a lot of respects, James Franco is the one person who nearly carries the film completely. As Alien he is deliciously OTT and adds comic relief and an element of danger to the storyline. Selena Gomez as Faith is also another standout who makes the entire first half worth the watch and who in particular steals the show in a scene between her and Franco. In addition to this she adds some heart and emotion to proceedings which is definitely needed in the main group of annoying, vapid girls. But even the ray of hope she offers is soon gone as she is criminally underused.

Spring Breakers is a ridiculously stupid movie that doesn’t know what it wants to say. Many will argue that this is what the whole film is about – no point to it, just a colourful display of the hedonistic lifestyle there. But that lack of drive leaves you feeling intensely hollow after watching Spring Breakers and wondering why you just watched an entire film about absolutely nothing. The treatment of women in the film is downright horrific – not really shocking, just kind of…pointless. Something like Magic Mike showed that objectivity was bad. Here it is just a given and seen as having no consequences – the men can do what they like to them and they’ll go along with it. The script and dialogue is awful and most of the characters are hateful and nasty. Yes, it looks lush and Korine really knows how to direct, but when it comes to writing he hasn’t got a clue. And let’s face it if James Franco wasn’t in this it would be unfunny and downright awful. Car crash cinema – avoid at all costs.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on April 17, 2013.

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