DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'll be honest. The first time I saw this I hated it immensely. But I was also oddly intrigued. When I watched this it was in a theatre during a sneak preview and after about fifteen minutes the first people started to walk out. After about half an hour, about half the audience had left. Those that remained were noisy, disinterested and annoyed, venting their frustration on the film.
In retrospect, this rubbed off on me and I guess I associated the experience with the film. But still those luring neon lights kept begging me to give it another watch. And when a mate of mine invited me to come over and watch what he called 'this generation's defining film', I decided to give Spring Breakers another chance.
Well damn, y'all. That theater back then was filled with morons, myself included.
Spring Breakers is a sun-struck fevered dream. The second you start looking for plot or narrative coherence you'll end up biting your own neck. Harmony Korine has created something that is an almost transcendent experience. His film is as shallow and hollow as its message and that is an intriguing symbiosis that gathers strength the further you get. The first act is easily the film's weakest part and possibly its Achilles heel for many viewers. It seems slightly out of tune with the rest, not exactly sure what it wants to become.
But when it gets into its own it is, for lack of a better word, mesmerizing. It is in the final two acts where form completely absorbs function, leaving us with an amalgamation of visuals and sound that match and blend perfectly. The soundtrack to Spring Breakers is astonishing. At points it felt as if it was created before Korine's beautiful visuals, as if the images were made to accompany the music, not the other way around. It is a constant presence, at points providing commentary on pop culture, at points effectively enhancing mood and the dreamlike atmosphere drenched in primary colour neon lights.
It is amazing how Korine manages to make something this ugly look as beautiful as almost every frame of Spring Breakers is. And he approaches it no holds barred, going all the way in artistic choices that exist far outside the common denominator. The repetition, the sound effects, all these things are there to express the director's conviction. This even is present in the casting. Casting these young stars is a comment in itself, creating a bizarre meta reality in which it almost seems as if these stars were not really certain what they had gotten themselves into, making Korine their Alien, pushing them on. Their performances are all fine, made even better by the amazing James Franco.
I don't think it is this film's intention to convey a deep message of how superficial life has become. It's there sure, but it's more an abstract poem about it than a lecture. That's probably where I misstepped the first time, aided by the noisy idiots around me. I am just really glad I gave this another go and approached it with an open mind. I can honestly say it was like watching it for the first time.
Spring Breakers is easy to hate and difficult to love, a quality by which all great art should be measured.