Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Thrillers Movie Review of ‘Spring Breakers’ (2013)

Movie Review of ‘Spring Breakers’ (2013)

Spring Breakers represents the exact type of audacious cinematic vision that we do not see enough of in this day and age. It’s a uniquely breathtaking experience from director Harmony Korine, one of the finest movies you will see this year on top of being undoubtedly the most polarising. The rather limp box office performance is unsurprising, as Spring Breakers will not appeal to all sorts. Some will hate the flick, perceiving it as a flashy gimmick since it features former Disney stars in risqué roles. Others will simply see it as empty, hedonistic exploitation; unable (or unwilling) to pierce the dense veneer of gaudy depravity on the surface to see the real film underneath. Korine’s film is an uncompromising snapshot of our modern culture, capturing and even critiquing the allure of a modern spring break excursions while also presenting an unpredictable story that veers into dark territory. It’s a culture-defining film, and it almost defies explanation.

Bored out of their minds at college, friends Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Brit (Ashley Benson) yearn to join the spring break festivities in Florida, and hope to bring along their Christian classmate Faith (Selena Gomez) for the ride. Lacking the necessary funds to travel, the girls rob a local chicken shop with water pistols and hammers to acquire cash, and soon they’re en route to Florida for the best week of their lives. The four ladies are eventually arrested for drug possession, but they’re unexpectedly bailed out by drug-dealing thug Alien (James Franco), who aspires to become King of Florida. Alien takes the girls under his wing, seeking to make the young ladies part of his harem.

The narrative more or less plays out like an extended music video montage; Korine fills the screen with a kaleidoscope of colours and images, often disregarding coherency as scenes and events blur into one another. There is not much of an underlying plot here and there’s a certain aimlessness to the proceedings, yet Korine never lets the picture out of his control, refusing to let it transform into a meandering mess. The filmmaker had the good sense to keep Spring Breakers trim and tight, with the door closing at around the 90-minute mark before the assortment of hallucinatory visuals outstay their welcome. Indeed, there are very few dead spots throughout the feature, as it maintains its energy and continues to display heightened creativity. If a less dexterous director was in the driving seat, the film would grow tedious after the first five minutes.

Spring Breakers especially comes to life during the party sequences, when Korine’s camera swirls around in a hypnotic fashion to capture the dubstep-fuelled insanity of hot youths consuming alcohol and drugs. For a while, Korine provides a rowdy, context-free walking tour through the types of insane debauchery that run rampant during spring break, which is enthralling to watch. The technical specs are first-rate, with the energetic cinematography by Benoît Debie (shooting on 35mm film) and the propulsive score by Cliff Martinez and dupstep outfit Skrillex creating pure audio-visual poetry. When Alien arrives about 40 minutes into the show, Spring Breakers becomes darker and more frenetic as the wannabe rapper gives the girls access to the real party. At first it looks as if Korine will travel down a clichéd route and eventually reveal Alien to be a scheming, murderous predator, making the girls realise they should’ve listened to their mothers. But Spring Breakers is too smart for that, and what follows is wholly unexpected.

Franco abandons his usual slacker persona entirely here to disappear into the role of Alien, and it’s a performance that will change people’s overall impression of the actor. It’s an astonishingly well-judged turn from Franco, the type that steals scenes and earns Oscars. Who knew Franco had such acting gusto within him? Spring Breakers has been especially provocative because it features former Disney Channel girls in grown-up roles. Indeed, we get to see Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens in various stages of undress and intoxication. But their acting goes beyond the surface novelty of seeing formerly good girls acting bad; the ladies are fantastic here, delivering nuanced performances that feel completely unforced and demonstrate their ability to undertake mature roles. Ditto for Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife), who are every bit as brilliant as their co-stars. Korine’s lavish images would’ve been for null unless they were supported by strong actors; fortunately, his ensemble are up to the task of carrying the film.

Regardless of what you think of it, Spring Breakers will likely go down as one of 2013’s most important and vital works, as it embodies the exact culture and moment in time when it was produced. The only reason I did not award the film a higher grade is due to how frank, brutal and repulsive it is; this is a strength, sure, since it pulls no punches, but there is not much replay value. That’s about the only thing there is to say about Spring Breakers that’s remotely negative. It’s hard to predict any individual’s reaction to this movie, but in my eyes it’s an immersive phantasmagoria that deserves to be seen by a wide audience.

8.2/10

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