Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★½

The opening to SPRING BREAKERS, which kicks off with a slo-mo montage of a thriving beach party accompanied by brostep icon Skrillex's "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites", gives the mainstream audience a taste of what they most likely came for in brilliant fashion. Alcohol-drenched breasts and sweaty, jiggling buttocks fill the sequence's duration, promising those who thrive on such imagery that they're in for something special. And they really are, but not in any way that they could have predicted.

SPRING BREAKERS, to the majority of America's casual moviegoing audience, is the cinema equivalent of those videos you see on YouTube that have millions of views for having a sexually suggestive thumbnail -- they lure you in and trick you into watching something mildly enlightening, or they just straight-up troll you. With this film, Harmony Korine is doing both. He's fooling those who came to see Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez dance around in bikinis and making them stay for a commentary on today's out-of-control and detached youth. Genius.

So how does SPRING BREAKERS manage to succeed on an artistic level while seemingly showing itself off as being utterly devoid of substance? It's hard to explain, really. None of the provocative dancing and constant nudity is erotic, even though they're lovingly shot with blown-out, neon-drenched and sometimes slowed-down cinematography. Music used for certain sequences are by the likes of the aforementioned Skrillex as well as Britney Spears, but it doesn't come off as dumb or cheesy. Why is this? It's probably because Korine managed to walk the perfect balance between trashy exploitation and surreal beauty in a way that is inexplicable, and it really doesn't matter how he achieved it because we're having such a powerful experience digesting it. Sometimes art can be visceral in ways that defy explanation.

Yes, the things that everyone says are great really are great -- James Franco, his American Dream speech, and the "Everytime" sequence, specifically -- but there's little details I picked up that enhance the film a tad. Gomez's character's religious background adds an interesting layer to the girls' actions, and puts a perspective on them without it becoming overbearing. And the fact that some female party people can be seen sucking on a red-white-and-blue popsicle only further teases our brain to the deeper meaning beneath the surface-level sleaze.

Of course, with a film like SPRING BREAKERS that tricks the audience into seeing something more than what they paid to watch, there are going to be those who will miss the point entirely. This can be proven by the two young boys who sat in front of me in my theater, whose badly obscured camera flashes on their smartphones happened to go off right when some bikini-clad dancing was going on. They then exited the theater huddled around the phone to see the glory they captured. It's a shame, really, because the film they mostly considered a chore to sit through, sans the nuggets of gold they were eager to mine, was one of the most daring and deceptively subversive films in recent memory.

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