Spring Breakers
Other // R // March 15, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted March 14, 2013
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In 2013, spring break remains to be a time for college students to escape reality and go wild. In fact, the event seems to become more insane each year. Writer/director Harmony Korine is no stranger to filming adolescent destruction and corruption. His work is incredibly divisive between audiences, and Spring Breakers is no exception. Korine explores the trends of drug abuse, alcoholism, violence, and finding oneself in a much more exaggerated sense. Despite the heavy subject matter, the narrative simply sets the stage and allows the visuals to arrange the plot and its chronology as desired. Some audiences might be offset by the feature's thin plot and trashy ongoings, but just realize that you're watching a Harmony Korine picture and he loves making the viewers feel uncomfortable whenever the opportunity shows itself. This is an art house film through and through, which will leave you loving or hating it by the time the credits are rolling. Regardless of which side you land on, Spring Breakers evokes the feelings it desires quite well.

Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are four college girls who want to escape reality. They're bored with school and its repetitive routines, so they've been saving up to take a trip to Florida for spring break. After realizing that they don't have enough money, three of the girls rob a local chicken restaurant. With a large sum of money in their pockets, they leave for a week of hardcore partying. The four girls find themselves locked up in jail for drugs, but find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer, named Alien (James Franco). While he seems charming enough to them, he has underlying motives to convince them to do some of his dirty work.

Despite the long-lasting friendship that has lasted between these four girls, they're all heading to Florida for entirely different reasons. Faith wishes to see a different part of the world, but ultimately wants to find herself in this chaotic partying. The three other girls are willing to do whatever it takes to continue having a great time. The film begins by setting up Faith's character before the group goes to Florida, but the picture soon descends into a sea of nude women, often bathing in alcohol. The script takes numerous small breaks throughout the picture for montage sequences, but it eventually finds its way back to the girls. The most genuine of the conversations to be had throughout the movie actually occurs in a swimming pool between Faith a couple of her friends. She speaks about her fondness of being around so many people, and that she's finally starting to discover who she is as a human being. Faith's friends may laugh, but it's an authentic speech that makes us connect with her character. Don't get too comfortable seeing any of the roles in this fashion, because that's all you're going to get. The story takes a turn that puts these wild young women in a situation that will change their lives forever.

While audiences might connect to Faith in that one instance, you'll find yourself miles away from the rest of the girls. Unfortunately, none of them have much of a personality. They might as well just be a trio of anonymous people found in the party crowd. We never learn anything about them, other than their names. Perhaps Korine intentionally made them empty characters for symbolic purposes, but audiences won't view it that way. Whether you're around the same age as these girls or not, you'll find it incredibly difficult to connect with them. However, as they continue to descend into madness, you're still somehow interested in what develops. Writer/director Korine most certainly deserves points for somehow managing to keep us invested and entertained, while still conveying an uncomfortable tone throughout. Spring Breakers isn't always serious, as it holds comedic elements, which create a nice contrast with the dark and dirty material. This is primarily expressed through Alien's dialogue. This character loves to play Scarface on repeat and enjoys showing off his money and possessions, which is a satirical element that works quite nicely.

By the time that the girls are found walking around with guns and wearing pink ski masks, it isn't difficult to figure out where Korine is heading with this motion picture. While spring break is the reason for the girls arriving to the location, it's only an underlying element to the crime, alcohol, drug use, and sex that awaits them. He's clearly making a statement about young adults, but it doesn't go very deep. There isn't much to the script, making this an extremely thin crime art house flick. Korine utilizes the running time's final few minutes in order to hit us over the head with the message, which is truly unnecessary. This could have resulted in an embarrassing disaster, but the film's production breathes life into this picture, which is what this feature desperately needed.

The first person to be cast was James Franco as Alien. While I'm not his biggest fan, he does an excellent job in this role. He makes this dangerous man incredibly charming. Not only is he believable, but he makes us laugh at the right moments. After Selena Gomez was cast as Faith and Vanessa Hudgens as Candy, I was shocked as to why Korine went with these ex-Disney stars. Once you see the film, it makes absolute sense. This director wanted to use the innocent image that these actresses once portrayed to his advantage. Selena Gomez plays the most grounded of the group, so she's able to maintain her good image through the running time. She's surprisingly decent as Faith, especially through her more emotional dialogue sequences. Vanessa Hudgens convinces us that she's the trashy Candy rather well, even though the camera never focuses on her for enough time to talk very much. Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson round out the cast in the roles of Cotty and Brit, and they fit into these characters nicely.

Writer/director Harmony Korine and his crew make Spring Breakers almost entirely a visual experience. He utilizes a grainy and gritty tone, which looks outstanding. Whenever bright colors get the chance to be in the frame, they have a neon quality to them, which supports the party scene very well. This director enjoys interfering with the traditional narrative, as he frequently uses sound bridges in order to connect images that don't happen until later in the feature. The majority of these transitions are handled with the sound of a cocking gun. Korine decided to make this a jarring noise that instantly points your attention to the next scene. It's repetitive, but it serves its purpose. The music is handled by both Drive's Cliff Martinez and popular DJ-artist Skrillex. The score and electronic music set the tone extremely well.

After going into this film knowing almost nothing about it, Spring Breakers turned out to be a nice surprise. Don't go into this expecting an outstanding narrative, because this film primarily tells its story through its visual design. Writer/director Harmony Korine will keep you immersed, entertained, and uncomfortable the entire time. Despite the fact that this crime art house picture has a thin plot, it will surely spark a lot of reactions. Spring Breakers will be loved by some and hated by others. This film is more about the feelings it conveys than the story it tells. Regardless of your opinion, it will make you feel a lot, which really means something. Recommended.

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