A review implies that I will have a definitive opinion of the subject matter that I am reviewing. I am warning you now, if that is what you expect, you will be disappointed. I honestly don’t know how I feel about this film. It was certainly interesting. Would I recommend that you go and see it? I’m not sure.
I originally came across this film by accident. I have a shameful love of terrible films, the kinds of things that ex-Disney starlets tend to star in. So on a Sunday afternoon, I was looking up Selena Gomez in IMDb, to see what she had been up to lately. There, I came across Spring Breakers. Looking at the pictures, reading the title of the film, I quickly assumed this would be exactly the kind of lame trash that I would enjoy watching. How wrong was I (or was I?).
The film opens with breasts. Breasts, asses, generally barely covered bodies… this is a theme throughout the film. So on the plus, there’s a lot to keep your average hot blooded male interested for 90-odd minutes. We are given a taste of Spring Break, followed by the dark, dull lives of our main protagonists who desperately want to escape to Spring Break and ‘discover who they are’.
Unfortunately, they don’t have the cash for the trip, and they have no way of legitimately acquiring it. Three of them (all but good-girl Faith, aka Selena Gomez) hold up a Chicken Shack for the cash they need. This quick, impulsive taste for violence and instant gratification starts the girls off on a destructive path. What is nice about this film is that it doesn’t preach (at least, not a lot). It is presented to us – this is what the girls do, take from it what you will. Faith is seen to battle with the ethics of the situation, but even she decides that it is ok if it means they get to have a good time. They deserve to have some fun, after all.
They make it to Florida and begin their partying. All goes well at first, until they are arrested for narcotics use. In comes an almost unrecognisable James Franco, as Alien. He bails the girls out of prison, and welcomes them into his ‘gang’. This is too much for Faith, so off she goes home (and Selena Gomez gets to keep just a little bit of Disney image intact). The three girls left, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cottie (Rachel Korine, wife of director Harmony Korine), relish in their new, higher-stakes partying with Alien and his crew.
This film is completely schizophrenic. Not that I minded it. It constantly plays with the notion of delayed decoding. Scenes are repeated, played out of order… audio is played before the scene or we see the scene before we here the audio. Sometimes audio from a pervious scene is played again, and the dialogue is given new meaning. At times I felt that there was a bit too much repetition of the partying scenes, but I can understand an argument for it – after all, this really is a mood piece.
There are so many clichéd places this film could go, but it manages to avoid them. It never goes where you think it would. For instance, after Alien picks up the girls, he is trying to convince Faith to stay, repeating over and over that he really likes her. I was convinced we were about to get a rape scene, which is exactly what I think they wanted me to think, but it doesn’t materialise. We expect Alien to be a uni-dimensional bad guy, out to lead the girls astray. But he doesn’t really. He seems so clueless, and honestly sweet in his own way, I’m not sure who ended up leading who.
There are some truly mental moments in this film, moments that will stay with me. Before heading out to terrorise fellow partying spring breakers, the girls dance around Alien’s white outdoor piano in custom-made pink balaclavas and matching outfits while Alien serenades them with Britney Spears. Britney carries on sadly singing along to the violence that ensues. It is horrifying, maddening, and somehow intensely beautiful. How was it beautiful? I don’t know. To me, their entire experience is a kind of nightmare, an extreme form of a coming of age story. And they really do come of age.
This is not a film for everyone, or even for many people. But it is a well made, interesting look at a topic I could never have imagined would be handled so well. James Franco is absolutely amazing. He completely disappears into the role. The girls are not strong characters in their own right. They are more like symbols. This is where the film loses out, but I do see how this is also effective.
Verdict: I have no real verdict, decide for yourself. If you are remotely curious, see it. It is certainly a different kind of film-making and an interesting exploration on an otherwise overdone, uninteresting topic.