James Haves’s review published on Letterboxd:
Spring Breakers is the story of four girls, Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine), as they find they do not have enough money to go on their spring break as they wanted to do. After a successful robbery of a café, the girls set off for a holiday of sun, sand, and non-stop partying. However, after they're arrested, they're bailed out by local rapper and gangster Alien (James Franco), and soon get caught up in his world of crime.
Now, I am the first to admit when I first heard of this film, I had no intention of seeing it. It just seemed like a film celebrating spring break, a tradition that doesn't even exist in my country, and seemed to be nothing more than a movie in which popular 'nice girls' got a chance to get naked on camera. However, after it was released I started seeing verdicts from people saying it was actually really good. So it was with some interest that I saw Spring Breakers, a film that turned out to be one of the most surprising, not to mention one of the best, movies of 2013 so far.
First of all, the acting in this film is much better than I ever thought it could be. Having sat through the first and third High School Musicals, I have grown to dislike Vanessa Hudgens as an actress. I've had no previous experience seeing Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, or Rachel Korine act, and I'm not the biggest fan of James Franco. While the girls don't have more character to play with beyond a couple of basic traits, they do very well with them, especially Selena Gomez, playing the naive Faith, who was probably the most interesting character in the whole film, and who is unfortunately under-used and doesn't have nearly enough screentime. But by far the star of the show is James Franco, who I normally find unbearably bland and uninteresting, pulls off the most entertaining aspect of the entire picture as Alien. Years from now, his performance will be described as iconic, but for now we'll have to stick with fantastic.
The main thing that Spring Breakers is about, I quickly discovered, is the direction and editing. The accentuated colours, the liberal use of slow-motion, and the quick cutting make for a rich and borderline hypnotic visual feast. This is one of the best looking films I've ever seen, and not in the way one would expect. Normally when doing a film with a subject matter like this, a director would go for a fun atmosphere, making the viewer feel like he or she is there in the party having a blast with everyone else. Spring Breakers is not like that. The atmosphere is bleak, hopeless, unsettling, and downright disturbing at times. This is helped all the more by the excellent soundtrack by dubstep musician Skrillex, whose work I'm not all that familiar with, but if it's like this, I might have to check it out. The film makes us detached from the fun, making us see that it isn't all harmless, and the aftermath is much more serious than we might realise at the time. You don't 'like' any of the people or their actions, but something about the way it's acted and directed make you constantly engaged in them.
Spring Breakers is a showcase of why film as a medium is so great. If this were a book, it wouldn't work at all. The story is thin on it's own, so much so that the Wikipedia plot synopsis is only about two paragraphs long. No, what makes this film so brilliant and engaging is the fact that it's a film. The visuals leap out at you, they draw you in, they entertain you, they horrify you, they show you the effects of the behaviour these girls exhibit not in a judgemental way, but in a passive way. Like saying, "here's what it's like, now make your mind up: do you want to be like this?" I don't know whether everyone will enjoy Spring Breakers, hell, I don't even know if I enjoyed it, but I do know that everyone needs to see it for the simple talent involved. I normally hesitate to use the word 'masterpiece' in reviews, because it seems like the highest compliment you can give something, but Spring Breakers is, without a shadow of a doubt, a masterpiece.