SXSW 2013: ‘Spring Breakers’ fulfills the salacious anticipations but with a surprising bit of darkness

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MV5BNDE3MDQzMDA5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTUxNTgxOQ@@._V1_SX214_Spring Breakers
Directed by Harmony Korine
Written by Harmony Korine (screenplay)
US, 2012

Spring Breakers, by strict definition, is not a very good film, but that does not mean that is a bad one either. The structure of the story is loose, looping and barely there; the characters lack much substantial development; however, for all of the hedonism and decadence portrayed in the trailer (and there is plenty in the film), Korine’s Spring Breakers should not be written off as just another lewd, impermanent film for the constant retweet/reblog generation. There is enough contemplative depth and darkness to the film that lends itself to exploring certain themes and says a lot about the current generation itself.

After a raucous opening scene, the film opens on four college students: Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Brit (Ashley Benson), arguably the darkest two of the four, the fraternity party frequenting Cotty (Rachel Korine), and the naive, church going Faith (Selena Gomez). They fulfill their plans to get away from the monotony of their own lives by robbing  a local eatery and going away to spring break. As they engage in salacious parties and over indulgences in alcohol and hard drugs, it is clear that their motivations are different. Faith is introspective, trying to find reason in everything she does. In her naivety, she believes that spring break is about finding oneself, true soul searching while the other three are engaging in pure hedonistic pleasures. It is in this naivety that creates a focal point for the audience in this unending world of hyper real indulgence.

spring-breakers-handcuffed

After the girls are arrested at a particularly raucous party, they are bailed by and introduced to the opposite end of that spectrum, Alien (James Franco), the successful rapper/dealer/criminal. He is an over the top rendition of a self proclaimed “gangster” who prides himself in his illegal work and the fruits of his crooked labor. A highlight of Franco’s performance comes when Alien is introducing the girls to his house and everything inside from guns adorning the wall to Scarface memorabilia to cheap colognes. Franco buries himself in the role behind attitude, cornrows, and a penchant for rhyming. In any other film, it would come off as forced, but given Korine’s hyper real, frenzied, and loose take, Alien is simply a product of the world, that environment, and this generation.

When it was announced that Cliff Martinez, composer on Drive, and musician Skrillex were collaborating for the soundtrack, there was much anticipation. The electronic genre of music which has gained exponential traction among young college audiences is fitting. The constant assault of beats and chaotic whomps of the bass exemplify the recklessness and attitude of these characters. However, there is much to be desired. The soundtrack is not as nuanced in a way to support certain story beats. It is much like the many party scenes in the film–a celebration of impermanence and not much else.

Overall, the core of the film is through the girls and Alien as characterizations of a generation’s attitude. Korine’s films tend to be challenging and complex, approaching many themes and characters while allowing audiences to pull what they will from it. The film is an assault on the senses, absurdly funny in some ways, and contains a certain complexity within the mess. Here, Korine supplies the visceral sensations, the guilty indulgences, the superficial longings, the over the top situations in order to comment on not only a generation’s attitude or a college ritual’s aesthetics, but also the changes people seek and how far that can get them astray and back again.

David Tran

1 Comment
  1. Paul Kenny says

    “The story is loose, looping and barely there” – You’ve obviously never seen a Harmony Korine film before, thats the whole point. Korine doen’t believe in the necessity for linear stories amongst the over saturated film world. i like that loose structure, gives his films a sense of freedom. Just my opinion though, liked the review!

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