Spring Breakers Film Review

Spring Breakers, directed by Harmony Korine, is the last film you want your parents to see before you go on that debaucherous holiday to Thailand. It is the story of four Midwestern girls (Vanessa Hudgens, Selina Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who, through desperation to experience Spring Break in Florida, ‘break bad’ and become embroiled in the insalubrious criminal world lurking beneath the holiday’s sparkly, Dubstep-ridden surface.

Looking at a number of responses to the film, Spring Breakers is shaping up to be the most misunderstood film of the year. This is likely due to its being marketed it as a ‘frat movie’ (ironically, probably) leading to the presumption and often – perhaps more surprisingly – the conclusion that the film is merely a celebration of all things vacuous.

Korine has created a film so subversive and aggressively meta-fictional that you wouldn’t be blamed for suspecting he doesn’t want you to enjoy it, and you probably wouldn’t be far from the truth. Spring Breakers is an exploration of the conflict between fantasy and reality in teenage culture, as epitomised by the squeaky-clean, pre-packaged Disney generation, from which three of the actresses were plucked. In contrast to this, Korine has these actresses (and their characters) imitate the other facet of teenage fantasy: those infernal MTV ‘reality’ characters that are idolised for their ignorance,  irresponsibility and promiscuity. The girls worship this MTV ideal with a religious fervour, and accordingly, conflate the hollow world of drugged-up, hypersexual youth and excessive consumerism with ideas of spirituality and self-discovery. Korine conveys the tension between the girls’ fantasy and real life consequences through an affecting series of contrasting images and motifs, fashioning an unsettling, amoral landscape.

As a viewer, you are left in an disquieting state of ambiguity throughout: are we meant to be drawn in by the glamour, titillated by the gratuitous scenes of exposed flesh or sit back as voyeurs and judge? Again, the meta-fiction here is that with any enjoyment of the girls’ reckless escapades comes a sense of our own culpability in their actions; we are sheltered from moral judgement by the artifice of the film just as the protagonists hide from their own actions by pretending they are “in a movie” (I told you it was meta!).

In a style evidently influenced by Terrence Malick, Korine employs repetitive, disjointed voice-overs to convey the thoughts and feelings of the girls, establishing an intimate, dreamlike atmosphere. This mood is enhanced by the percussive throb of Cliff Martinez’ low frequency electronic music, whose distinctive sound some may recognise from 2011’s Drive.

In terms of performances, the actresses play convincingly the vacuous and (broadly) amoral revellers, although having such an unlikeable set of protagonists is inevitably a burden on the audience’s investment in the film. Nevertheless, James Franco’s Gatsby-tinged role as Alien, a ridiculous, naive, romantic, drug dealer (a “gangster with a heart of gold”), stands out due to his unexpected warmth and human vulnerability, which conversely, the all-too-corruptible girls seem to lack.

Audacious and more than a little unhinged, Spring Breakers is not for everyone, but is definitely worth a look for those who are curious to experience a  film which leaves the viewer both fantastically entertained and fabulously uneasy.

Click to comment
To Top