From that promo first look, Spring Breakers captured the attentions of everyone. In a culture where sex sells practically everything, it’s not surprising. We have four beautiful scantily clad young girls, looking like they’re ready for a wild Spring Break. Since it was clear to me from the start that Spring Breakers isn’t some MTV production but a supposed evocative and independent film, I was skeptical how much meaning you can extract from something as superficial as Spring Break. The mixed response to the movie since it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival definitely made me weary about what was in store.
After seeing it, I will admit that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Yet, it’s not anything even close to raving about. Spring Breakers is a satirical, odd and dreamy film that at moments can be pretty entertaining thanks to a wild performance from James Franco.
Spring Breakers follows four college girls longing to go to Florida for Spring Break. When they come up short on cash, they decide to rob a local food joint. (Seriously.) After a successful robbery, they head to Florida and start drinking, partying, and all that… Until they get busted at a party and arrested. Alien (James Franco), a rich and heavily armed rapper/criminal, bails the girls out and invites them to hang out with him.
This movie is full of WTF moments, some bad, few kind of brilliant, and others just plain perplexing. The brilliant ones are thanks to James Franco’s outrageous performance. Somehow, there’s something underlying and menacing in his ridiculous personality. I have to admit that this is most I’ve enjoyed seeing him on film in a long time. Once Franco’s character bails the girls out of jail, the movie finds an energy that it had been lacking. Franco is hilarious and satirical. And his whole world is just as ridiculous. There’s one scene in which Franco’s character plays Britney Spears’ “Everytime” on the piano in his backyard, while the girls dance with guns and masks and sing along. It’s completely strange, funny, yet arresting. I can never listen to that song the same way again. (I expect Tumblr will GIF the hell out of it.) And its moments like that or ones with blatant satire that are the highlights of Spring Breakers.
However, the majority of it is just a blur of Girls-Gone-Wild-esque scenes, and the random bits of dialogue that play throughout these sequences give it a dreamlike quality. Even though, I still have no clue what points the girls were trying to convey with their phone calls home. And hearing “Spring Break” or “Spring Break Forever” being said over and over, like they were trying to hypnotize the audience, was tiring.
The girls performances are risqué compared to their past work but hardly noteworthy. Selena Gomez plays the “innocent” one, and it’s not much of a departure from what we’ve seen her do before. It also doesn’t help that her onscreen presence is so uncomfortable to watch. This isn’t the kind of role that will have people taking her seriously as an actress. The same can be said for Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine. All of their characters are one-note. Hardly complex characters. For the majority of the movie as they run around in their bikinis, they’re pure sexual objects. That’s the biggest disappointment of the film. Not for one second can I say I cared for any of them. How can this movie have any meaning, if the leads are practically empty? It also made it hard for me to figure out what point this movie was trying to make. Yes, I get it’s a satire. But what was it trying to say about these girls, especially at the end with Hudgens and Benson’s characters? I didn’t get it, and I’m not sure if I even want to.
I will commend director Harmony Korine on making a stylish film with some flair. But trying to evoke meaning out of a film like this is very hard, and he wasn’t successful. I have to admit that it is annoying and a bit offensive that some think that Spring Breakers will help people better understand today’s youth. That couldn’t be further from the truth. While the Spring Break culture continues to live on with its wildness and craziness, it’s still a mindless diffusion of energy, and that’s probably the only thing Spring Breakers got right about it.
Spring Breakers opens nationwide on Friday, March 22nd.