Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★★

Film #6 is my Harmony Korine Project

(There's some spoilers in here for both Spring Breakers and Pulp Fiction. Sorry).

And so we come to the end.

I'm glad I decided to open this project with Harmony Korine, if only because it let me revisit Spring Breakers (still my favorite film of the year), on the big screen like the Good Lord intended, with the added context of his entire body of work. And if anything, it only reinforced my initial reading of the film: Spring Breakers is not an ironic picture.

You heard this a lot when it first came out: Spring Breakers is a satire. Korine's mocking his protagonists and the entire Spring Break culture. And that reading never sat right with me, even moreso on this revisit. All of Korine's films portray bizarre twisted subcultures - the townsfolk of Xenia, Julien and his family, the colony of impersonators, and of course the trash humpers - but there's never any disdain. His subjects are often freaks and outcasts, but he's never mocking them. At the very worst, he's merely observing and quite often he's painting a truly loving portrait (don't forget that he's the fourth, unseen trash humper).

The main source of most of the allegations of satire in Spring Breakers seem to focus on the repeated monologues delivered by Faith (Selena Gomez). Over images of orgiastic college students drinking, partying and generally engaging the sorts of behavior that would make your average citizen of Sodom blush, she speaks of finding God and true beauty in her trip to Spring Break. It's a fairly ludicrous conceit in theory, and one that Korine returns to time and time again. But Korine wants us to take this deadly serious, and before I explain why, I need to go on a brief tangent.

There's a popular reading of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, focused on the Jules & Vincent storyline. In it, the two titular hitmen played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson retrieve a briefcase that opens with the combination 666 and contains something that emits a bright red glow. After opening it, they're jumped by a thug, who despite having the drop on them, misses every point blank shot he fires and is quickly dispatched, with similar red flashes appearing throughout the scene. The popular reading I alluded to earlier is that the briefcase contained their boss' soul, and that the flashes of red indicated that God intervened and saved them from being gunned down in the apartment. This is somewhat alluded to in the film's climax, in which Jules believes a miracle occurred and decides to devote his life to God.

Spring Breakers ends with a similar shootout, in which Alien (James Franco), Britt (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) descend upon Big Arch's (Gucci Mane) mansion, to get revenge for what he did to Cotti (Rachel Korine). Alien is swiftly killed, but Britt and Candy, two ordinary college girls, managed to easily slaughter all of Big Arch's bodyguard and Big Arch himself without so much as breaking a nail. And here's where Faith's monologues come into play. Faith certainly did find God in St. Petersburg, certainly more than she ever found in the hollow charade that was her church, but she couldn't commit. The moment things got dangerous, the moment it stopped being a nonstop party, the moment God placed a challenge in her way, she bailed and went home, unable to truly gain salvation. And Cotti, well, Cotti was only ever in it for the hedonistic excess (note how she's separated from the girls when Faith wishes she could stop time). But Britt and Candy, they understand. They give in completely to the excess, the exploration, the grand totality of Spring Break. And by the end, they're giving similar monologues to their mothers, espousing the beauty they found in Florida and a new found desire to be a better person. It's not ironic. It's completely sincere. And when they enact their revenge, God protects them and grants them vengeance. And they leave, never to return, riding off into the sunset. They found the salvation that Faith so desperately wanted. They found God in the writhing masses.

And that's why I love this movie so damn much.

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