There’s a scene in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers that almost perfectly embodies the overall experience of the film: Alien (James Franco), a rapper and drug dealer, sits on a white baby grand piano preparing to do a cover of a song by an “angel on earth if there ever was one,” Britney Spears. Surrounding him are three girls with assault rifles in hand and pink ski masks covering their faces. Clad in bikini tops and sweatpants with the phrase “DTF” on the backs, the girls listen intently as he sings “Everytime.” The scene then transforms into a group sing-a-long intercut by the non-diegetic sound of Britney Spears’ “Everytime” playing over a montage of the girls and Alien robbing and beating tourists and fellow spring breakers. If that doesn’t pique your interest in this semi art-house, exploitation film, then be forewarned, Spring Breakers is not for you.
Faith (Selena Gomez) is a church going teenager who finds herself uninspired by bible studies and group devotions, feigning her way through songs of praise. On the opposite end, her childhood friends; Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine), and Brit (Ashley Benson), are bored with college and their listless, one streetlight town and long for an uninhibited escape during spring break. Low on funds, Candy and Brit decide to rob a local restaurant using Cotty as a getaway driver. Decked in sweatshirts and ski masks the girls take fake guns and a hammer into the restaurant shouting obscenities and threats while smashing a whole mess load of tables to get the money. They succeed and we follow the quartet to Florida as they revel in flowing booze, horny youth, and wild parties. But, when they are arrested with a slew of party goers, their bail is paid by the grill wearing, cornrow having Alien, an eccentric rapper who sees something special in the girls. The girls, some reluctantly, follow Alien down a rabbit hole of debauchery they could never imagine.
Hit me baby, one more time.
Spring Breakers is from the mind of Harmony Korine, a mind that showed audiences the grimy life of poor youth in Xenia, Ohio in Gummo. His script for the 90s drama, Kids, exposed the shenanigans of a group of 15-year-olds in New York City who spend their time skateboarding, devirginizing young girls, and infecting each other with AIDS. Korine is renowned for his films that escape into a world of crazed lunacy that exposes the lives of marginalized people, be it a Michael Jackson impersonator (Mister Lonely), a schizophrenic youth (Julien Donkey Boy), a group of degenerates who find pleasure in humping trash (Trash Humper’s), or a clique of women who fetishize violence in Spring Breakers.
Korine captures the unseen debauchery of college kids who vacation in Florida during spring break better than any MTV special could. In a day glo, super glitzy style we see students drink themselves into oblivion, show anyone batting an eye their breasts, degrade each other through a number of drinking games, do massive amounts of blow, yet find comfort and sometimes spiritual awakening in being surrounded by others who enjoy doing the same.
The growing feminist within me was initially appalled at the way women were represented in Spring Breakers, however, I became conflicted as that very same feminist saw a world freedom and escape for some of these women. The main quartet of girls are never taken advantage of. Instead they make the rules choosing to drink heavily, flirt with whomever they please, and have casual sex. To pretend that these women don’t exist or argue that there is something innately wrong with them is a fallacy of society. These girls long for the freedom to express their sexuality and enjoy a bit of hedonistic pleasure the way a man gets to.
It’s all about women’s rights bitches!
The problem with the girls we follow isn’t their willingness to partake in decadence, it’s how stimulating violence becomes to the ones who choose to stay with Alien. Spring Breakers shifts halfway in to show audiences a pair of girls that are empowered by living in a man’s world and controlling situations the way they see men do. The girls take advantage of their gender by using their sexuality as a means of power to get what they want and have no qualms in doing that. This exploration of the degradation of today’s youth was initially what I thought Spring Breakers was all about, until Korine’s strange and hyper driven narrative confused my ideals.
And that’s where the biggest polarizing affect comes in. Korine doesn’t believe in following a standard structure to tell a story, at least that was his ideology at the time he made Gummo. Spring Breakers happens in sequential order; A happens, then B, and the result is C. However, in between we get some numbers and weird character signs thrown into the equation. Sometimes we’ll see a scene happen, but not know if it’s in the present or future. Sometimes we are given no explanation at all for scenes. It makes the already convoluted story that much more confusing. The confusing narrative also makes it difficult to decipher if the film is supposed to be mostly serious or satirical.
Korine marches to the beat of his own drum, because of this audiences have to endure his obnoxious cinematic decisions. The use of occasional wooden, voice over narration by Faith and other characters is a despicably annoying one aspect of the film, but in the last half of Spring Breakers we are put through the hellish agony of having to listen to multiple takes of Franco, Hudgens and Benson say the same lines over and over again. Stuck in ongoing loop repetition, we also must sit through stock footage and unnecessary shots to pass time. I’m pretty sure these were Korine’s attempts to enrage whomever he could, but he probably just thought it was awesome filmmaking.
“Let’s do blow, kill a guy, call our parents and tell them we’re better people, then do it all again tomorrow!”
Spring Breakers isn’t a film for the masses. When the audience I saw it with weren’t laughing uncontrollably at Korine’s decisions and Franco’s hilariously idiosyncratic role, they were angry and frustrated. Multiple people walked out during the film and as the ending title card flashed on screen, a guy stood up and yelled, “well that was a waste of my time!” After ease dropping on a group during the post film bathroom break, I could tell people were pissed and that’s understandable. Spring Breakers is half comedy, half serious drama, possibly a satire, mostly an exploitation film, semi-art house and overall pretty ridiculous. Korine, however, doesn’t stay consistent enough for anyone to know for sure. However, if you know and appreciate Korine’s films or can tolerate a glossy hodgepodge of images featuring women brandishing guns and singing Britney Spears, then be prepared to see a cult classic in the making.
Every one turns out incredible performances including Gucci Mane in a dry, odd, and terribly acted performance as the film’s main antagonist. Spring Breakers is an experience in itself, you may love it or hate, but you won’t forget it and that’s what provocative films are all about, right?
Take a Drink: for every Britney Spears reference.
Take a Drink: every time you here Alien’s monologue “Spring break, spring break…. Spring break for ever.”
Take a Drink: every time a gun is licked, sucked, or otherwise treated like a penis.
Take a Drink: every time Gucci Mane makes you double over in laughter.
Do a Shot: if you notice the spring breaker with lopsided boobs.