Spring Breakers (2013) Text Review

Four college girls long to go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break, but don’t quite have the cash to get there. After turning it around in their minds for a while, they come up with the obvious solution: they paint some squirt guns black and hold up a diner, grabbing cash from the register and mugging all the patrons. (“Act like it’s a movie,” they say to each other beforehand to psych themselves up for it.)

Once they make it to the sun-soaked beaches of Florida, they engage in drug-fueled debauchery that quickly lands them in jail. They’re bailed out by a stranger, a corn-rowed rapper calling himself “Alien” (James Franco) who also happens to be a drug dealer. He slowly draws the girls into his lifestyle, and into a feud with a rival dealer that leads inexorably to this movie’s bloody conclusion.

Spring Breakers (2013) Text Review

Spring Breakers is a movie that lots of people talked about, but not many actually saw. On the surface, it’s a trashy crime drama set in the same hedonistic world that brought us Girls Gone Wild and MTV Spring Break. But despite all the sex and drugs and violence on display, it’s about as far as you can get from anything that could be called actual titillation. Gunplay and bare boobs have never looked so bleak.

Clearly, this film was meant as something deeper, more artful. It seems to be an attempt at social commentary, but even among the critics who gushed over it upon its initial release (and believe me, there were many), there’s not a whole lot of agreement over what aspect of society, exactly, this film is commenting on.

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Is it about the dark, seedy underbelly of the American dream? Is it about millenials’ desensitization to violence thanks to video games and internet porn? Is it about society’s relentless obsession with youth? White appropriation of hip-hop culture? A thinly-veiled statement on TARP bailouts?

Despite lovely candy-coated cinematography, and some eminently quotable dialogue, I’m not sure Spring Breakers is about much of anything, other than its own stunt casting. As the continuing fame of Miley Cyrus proves, there’s nothing the American public eats up quite as voraciously as former teen queens shedding their good girl images, and in that respect, Spring Breakers does not disappoint.

The film finds a former Disney Channel star or two making their first (okay, maybe second) ever appearance in a R-rated film, so I’ll go through the cast one by one, and talk about their performances, and discuss what’s really important here: who gets naked or not.

Of the four, the only actress who distinguishes herself with an actual personality is Selena Gomez, famous for Wizards of Waverly Place and being Justin Bieber’s (ex?) girlfriend. She’s in a church group, prays often, and has a personal connection with her lord and savior Jesus Christ. Other than “Alien”, she’s the only character whose name I could actually remember: Faith. Yes, the one devoutly religious girl of the group is named “Faith”. She’s clearly uncomfortable with the situation and leaves the festivities early on, showing the least skin of anyone.

Spring Breakers (2013) Text Review

The rest of the girls are varying shades of sociopath, willing to do anything as long as it gets them high and/or laid. Of the three, the most notable is Vanessa Hudgens, better known for the High School Musical franchise. While her former co-star/boyfriend was busy being peed on by Nicole Kidman, the one-time Gaby Montez has an implied nude scene, engages in a discreetly filmed three-way, simulates oral sex on a notebook, and delivers various witticisms like, “Seeing all this money makes my pussy wet!”

Spring Breakers (2013) Text Review

Then there’s Ashley Benson from ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. I’d love to say more about her character, but she’s pretty much interchangeable with Vanessa. The same can be said about the fourth member of the group, the Ernie Hudson of this quartet, played by Rachel Korine, the director’s wife. Except, since she’s the only one you’ve never heard of, she’s the only one who does any real nudity.

And then there’s James Franco. He doesn’t get naked, but he does perform fellatio on two loaded guns, if that’s what you’re into.

Everything Franco has done for at least the last three years feels like a publicity stunt—why the hell was he on General Hospital again?—and when he plays “Alien”, every line he speaks is utterly ridiculous. His performance here should be taken about as seriously as James Franco himself took grad school.

If you doubt this whole thing was just a goof for him, wait for the moment when he sits behind a white piano on the beach and sings a heartfelt rendition of a Britney Spears ballad while the girls pirouette around him in pink ski masks and carrying guns, which really happens.

Spring Breakers (2013) Text Review

Or better yet, just listen to his key speech in the movie, a thing of wonder. Surely, the bulk of next year’s applicants to Julliard will be using this monologue as an audition piece.

Alien: This is the fucking American dream. This is my fucking dream, y’all! All this sheeeit! Look at my sheeeit!

I got— I got shorts! Every fucking color. I got designer T shirts!

I got gold bullets. Motherfucking vampires. I got Scarface. On repeat. Scarface on repeat. Constant, y’all!

I got Escape! Calvin Klein Escape! Mix that shit up with Calvin Klein Be. Smell nice. I smell nice!

That ain’t a fucking bed. That’s a fucking art piece. My fucking spaceship! U.S.S. Enterprise on this shit. I go to different planets on this motherfucker! Me and my fucking Franklins here, we take off. Fucking take off!

Look at my shit. Look at my shit! I got my blue Kool-Aid. I got my fucking numchucks [sic]. I got shurikens. I got different flavors. I got them sais. Look at that shit, I got sais. I got blades!

Look at my sheeeit! This ain’t nothing! I got— I got rooms of this shit!

I got my dark tanning oil… lay out by the pool, put on my dark tanning oil.

Machine guns! Look at this. Look at this motherfucker here! Look at this motherfucker! Huh? A fucking army up in this shit!

It’s entirely possible Franco improvised this entire speech on the spot, and if so, now we know what an MFA in creative writing gets you.

While the first half of the movie focuses on the four girls, the last half feels like one, long, interminable James Franco voiceover. From the beginning, it’s clearly not a fast-paced film, but in its final act, Spring Breakers slows way the fuck down as we listen to Franco blather incessantly about how overjoyed he is to be living the American dream.

I really can’t blame him. If I were having regular threesomes with Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens, I too would be walking around in a haze of perpetual euphoria, constantly telling any poor soul I happened to come across what an awesome and fantastic life I was leading. But I’m fully aware that I’d also be a total bore to listen to.

Spring Breakers was written and directed by Harmony Korine. I’m not that familiar with his oeuvre, but by all accounts this his most accessible, watchable film yet, so I’m pretty sure I’m not missing much (he also made a 90-minute movie about people dry humping trash cans).

Spring Breakers (2013) Text Review

Part of me suspects (well, pretty much knows) this was all an excuse to film lots of really young women getting naked. Especially considering there’s a good chance Korine and his wife first hooked up when she was still 16 or 17. Make of that what you will.

Is Spring Breakers a subtly-played satire of exploitation movies, or just an actual exploitation movie? It hardly matters, because it doesn’t work as either one. It’s a movie where you derive more enjoyment from saying that you’ve seen it than actually seeing it. “Look at my sheeeit” is going to be a constant inside joke for years to come.

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  • MichaelANovelli

    I got something different out of the film, but I’ll go into that in my own review. ^_^

  • Dave Henry

    Disagreed. Here’s what I think the film is about: http://www.zekefilm.org/2013/07/29/one-hell-of-a-spring-break/

  • danbreunig

    Especially loaded violence and hedonism which promises to make a point and doesn’t deliver, huh? Just reading this recap gave me painful memories of The Doom Generation. I’m surprised no one’s recapped or reviewed that one yet.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Oancitizen did, once ago, but we here at AB do not officially endorse anything CA does. ;)

      • The_Stig

        Unless it pertains to crossovers, namedropping and gratuitous cameos. ;-)

        • MichaelANovelli

          Hey, it’s not our fault that Diamanda Hagan keeps popping up. It’s like we built a wall, but she keeps finding ways around it!

          • The_Stig

            Soon all will be Hagan.

      • danbreunig

        Indeed. I should’ve specified: I want to see someone in the BOOTH take a stab at The Doom Generation. I keep saying you guys are my #1 video review site.

        • MichaelANovelli

          Well, I’ve got a review of this film in the works. Doom Generation is on my list, if I can ever find it…

          • danbreunig

            Well thanks for putting it on the to-do list. I’ll go so far as to say it’s really the only movie I’ve seen with a climax that honestly gave me phantom pains just watching–and I still couldn’t find the point of it all. I gotta turn in, I’m ranting too much…

  • David f white

    I liked the Doom Generation!! Rose Mcgowan was really hot!! and Topless & and sexy!! Maybe Doom Generation is too Gen X???

    • danbreunig

      Great for you. Really, that’s not a slam–if you and others find pleasure and depth in it, then I’m glad to see someone could benefit. I’m unfortunately someone who didn’t. Just like a little while back I wrote how much I loved and defended Duel when someone else didn’t. And when I read Doctor Winston’s Spring Breakers recap here TDG quickly came to my mind as a comparable movie based on the same details. I’m technically Gen X and I couldn’t get into it–I wasn’t shocked, I just couldn’t see the point of the shocks.

    • Cristiona

      That seems a pretty low standard for an enjoyable movie.

    • E.Buzz Miller

      Then fucking watch Jawbreaker then.
      Doom Generation is NBK would be made by Ben Stiller’s character in Reality Bites.

  • John Wilson

    One word for the movie:SYMBOLISM:).

  • E-Squared

    I felt the same way when I watched this. I have seen the movie twice. Once in theaters, the other when I bought it (Yes, I actually liked the movie enough to purchase it). I remember leaving the theater with a feeling of “What did I just watch?” but it was in a bad way like when I saw “Movie 43” (Yes, I actually paid to see that, mostly out of sheer curiosity).

    Now I can’t say that this movie is for everyone, because it truly isn’t, but what I got out of the movie is a hedonistic look into the dark side of Spring Break and gangsta culture. Also, prior to seeing this movie, the only thing that I have seen of Harmony Korine’s was “Kids,” but he only wrote the script to that movie. I later on watched “Gummo,” which he both wrote and directed, and watching that reminded me of this movie style-wise.

    Again, I liked (LIKED, not loved, because that would be wrong) this movie, but it’s one of those movies that is really hard to recommend because some probably wouldn’t understand it, some would more than likely dislike it (if they’re used to more mainstream films) and it’s definitely one of those movies that one really needs to go in with either an open mind or that one should know what he/she is getting himself/herself into. All I can say is that the movie was, well, DIFFERENT.