Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★½

Spring Breakers opens with a bang. Or, more specifically, with the familiar strains of Skrillex's "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" over images of nubile young men and woman drinking beer, dancing and generally acting in a decadent and debauched manner over a series of Florida beaches. It's an overture that sets the tone for the entire film (as a side note - more films should start with overtures. It never gets old). It's not a tone of decadence, or one of judgement, but rather something far more interesting.

The best way to describe it is through a comparison (as loathe as I am to reduce this film to being in any way a derivative piece, I feel this analogy should be made). Recall the scene in The Big Lebowski, at Treehorn's party, where we see the topless woman bouncing on the trampoline. It's a sexual image, sure, but there's nothing remotely sexual about how the Coen brothers portray it. It simply is. This tone is immediately apparent from the moment Spring Breakers begins. We see enough tits and ass to fill a thousand Girls Gone WIld videos, and yet the sexual never feels even remotely sexual. There's a cold detachment to the proceedings that Korine carries throughout the entire film. The plot of the film is fairly lurid nonsense, but Korine keeps the audience at arms length from the proceedings at all times, which prevents it from ever collapsing into full on exploitative trash (and I love exploitative trash, don't get me wrong, but it's clearly not what Korine is going for). It's never supportive, but never judgmental either - the events are merely laid out on screen without commentary, and Korine invites us to observe these sights along with him.

And what sights they are, because this film is gorgeous. The colors pop in every frame (neon has never looked so good), the camera manically twisting and turning throughout the debauchery. Even the static, quiet shots are still incredibly arresting and full of energy. There is not a single shot in this film I would not want framed and put on my wall, it's that beautiful (there are some haunting images in a church at the start of the film, and a pink filtered shot at the end that stick out especially).

And here we hit the main problem with reviewing Spring Breakers. I could go further in talking about how manically inventive the visuals are in this film, but that would deprive you of the delights of discovering the specifics for yourself. Suffice it to say Korine takes the film down whatever visual whim he fancies at any given moment, and it's delightful - the film plays with framing, editing, color tracking shots and even filters with manic glee. The same can be said for its use of music. Beyond the (terrific) score by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex, the film uses pop music is a genius and immensely surprising way. Again, to talk about the songs in the specific would ruin the wonderful surprises that lay ahead for you, but there are three in particular that need to be addressed: a mid film montage that is easily one of the best montages and uses of music I have ever seen in my life; the cover song that scores the climax, which begins with a moment of laughable shock and quickly becomes truly beautiful and moving; and the song that plays over the credits, which is at once surprising and completely obvious.

But it's not all just pretty sights and great colors, because oh my God the acting in this film is wonderful. Rachel Korine is probably given the least to do, but is a fascinating enigma throughout. Selena Gomez is our anchor throughout the film's first half, completely finding the truth (or what truth there is to be found in a film this surreal) in the film's hardest role, that of the good girl. Her monologues are wonderfully innocent yet jaded, providing us an insight into both the allure and the danger of Spring Break. And Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens are transcendant, playing two characters who slowly merge into one as they descend further and further down Korine's rabbit hole. They're fascinatingly cold and empty nihilists, consistently pushing the plot forward throught nothing more than sheer boredom. I've always liked these two in the past, but this is easily the best they've ever been.

And, of course, James Franco. James Franco is just as great as you've heard. James Franco is amazingly quotable, hysterically funny, immensely captivating, subtly frightening, oddly seductive and ultimately, truly tragic. It's a completely realized character from the first moment he appears onscreen, the greatest performance of Franco's career. He completely disappears into the role and provides the film's heart that makes it more than just a parade of filth.

Spring Breakers is one of the most powerfully singular visions I've seen in a long time. It's everything that is right about art cinema - uncompromising, deep, funny, experimental, powerful. It grabs a hold of you and refuses to let go - there is not a moment in the 24 hours since I've seen it that it hasn't been on my mind. I cannot wait to see it again and begin decoding it. It's a god damn masterpiece masquerading as softcore porn. I love it so damn much.

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