Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"Y'all be careful of that water. Lots of sharks out there. The water looks real pretty, but the sharks are waiting. Bunch of vicious motherfuckers. Just lurking. Lurking."

I originally had Spring Breakers on my Anti-Watchlist. That's right, I had targeted the movie as utter garbage, something I'd never ever go out of my way to watch unless someone forced it upon me. Just look at the poster, you can immediately tell what kind of movie this must be, just a damn dumb party movie about some rapper and some slutty young women up to no good. Well, when I started seeing actual good reviews for this movie on Letterboxd, I was surprised. They kept on coming, not just one, but several of them, and for once, I'm glad I listened, because we are in total agreement on this one. Spring Breakers is a ragingly skillful dramatic thriller, damn near a modern day masterpiece.

The film is about four young women, all students. One of them, appropriately called Faith, a devoted Christian. They're sick and tired of their old homes and school, and they want to head out on the road for spring break, the great party event of a lifetime, where it's all booze, sex, drugs and rock and roll. And they find their paradise, with all the fun and craziness they could've ever wanted, but things very soon take a turn for the worse, and they slowly spiral down a rabbit hole of tragedy and misfortune.

Here's where I confess - there is nothing I hate more than the teenage "party down" attitude and the whole damn drunken debauchery scene. Every single weekend, people capable of rewarding, intelligent, positive things all getting drunk as shit, breaking the law and shit around them, acting all "cool" to fit in, having casual sex and doing drugs for seemingly no reason. In this one there's a scene where they talk about that - that the reason is they're so averse to waking up in the same place and experiencing the same things that they have to break down in this weekly spiral of self-destruction just to find themselves. Almost like traversing all the seven circles of hell every week just to see which one you fit into, and what kind of people you'll meet down there. I'm not made for that. I prefer being sober and conscious, no matter how good or bad life gets, and I also don't feel a need to surround myself with other people (especially drunken idiots) to feel like I'm worth anything. With that being said, it's up to everyone to find their own path in life, and it seems like these rituals are somehow essential and necessary for some people, I just think it's a sad thing to deliberately waste away your IQ, your wallet, your liver and your memories when you could be having fun in lots of other fulfilling and equally powerful ways - like the experience of a movie, such as this one. Ironic huh? Anyway, that was my rant, on to the movie itself.

A lot of people have been complaining about Miley Cyrus and her VMA performance recently, where she was whoring around, sticking out her tongue, twerking her ass around to the horror of millions of onlookers. And in turn, a lot of people have been complaining about people complaining about it, saying it only brings more attention to it. Well, when I saw Spring Breakers I realized that her performance may actually be a crucial key to understanding the zeitgeist of 2013 and the descent of the Disney generation. I'm now remembering all these young children in the 90's, brought up on a cheerful, positive atmosphere with a message of tolerance and anti-racism (and I can even recall the vivid anti-martial arts vibe when that trend was said to turn us all into horrible psychopathic children who would karate kick someone to death for no apparent reason). Now they're of age and rebelling, and they have to do it hard, as any generation does after a time of hard moral ethics. That counterculture reaction, in all its glory and horror is perfectly captured in the surreal thriller fever dream that is Spring Breakers.

While it begins with the dubstep tunes of Skrillex (who co-wrote the score, more on that later), and your typical Girls Gone Wild-esque celebration of spring break (tanned idiots in bikinis and shorts screaming and giving the finger, bimbos pouring water over their exposed breasts, people getting drunk in public places), it becomes apparent very quickly that this is not a celebration of a hedonistic lifestyle, even though those elements are crucial to telling the story. The film may be told with bright neon colors, disjointed scenes, a minimal use of dialogue (all almost sprinkled in like the idea of a conversation more than a real one) and of course endless parades of bare asses and breasts, graphic sexual escapades (this is not a film to see with your family or grandparents) and ballers slinging dope and collecting guns, but the style and intent of the film is still very clear. The camera hovers around and away from the characters and often comes very close to a documentary kind of feel, and it's telling when it literally backs away or when the girls are so excited to get partying that they run away from the camera which can't begin to catch up with their wickedness. The perspective is always objective to a certain degree, and this is tonally much closer to "Four Little Indians", Bonnie & Clyde or even The Devil's Rejects than it is to something like Project X (which I haven't seen but I've heard is absolute bullshit, ha).

James Franco is portrayed almost like a religious deity of a man, a rapper called Alien, because he's "not from this world". It's perfect that he should be an enigma, this void of a man that only exists to collect and use women, weapons and stacks upon stacks of money. There were three moments all close to the same scene that sold him on me. First when he jumps around in his bed full of money with his guns and drugs saying "look at my shit" like some MTV Cribs reject. As soon as I saw him and his living quarters, another movie immediately sprung to mind, and don't you think he mentioned it? "Scarface, always Scarface on fuckin' repeat!" - a movie with a very similar message and characters that are just as vapid but that is constantly and ironically misunderstood. Finally the scene where his new lady friends turn the tables on him, they emasculate him by having him perform fellatio on loaded weapons, and he revels in it. I thought that symbol of both sexual depravity, a strange kind of gender reversal and riches and waste all rolled into one was pitch perfect. The man worships his guns so much he's gladly willing to blow them. The movie seems to ask the question (as we all have) - when you have it all, what's left to have? If every day is a party, and that's the norm, when do you ever really have fun? How long do you have to go to fit in and define yourself, and is it worth it in the end?

Visually the movie is striking, it's beautiful in the ugliest way possible. Michael Bay would be proud of it all, this lavish neon nightmare. Although we follow the characters around, we're also living in their state of mind, this surreal landscape where doom and failure is always just around the corner. This feeling is heightened not only by these emotional puzzle pieces that the scenes represent (and the overall camera work), but also the Skrillex score haunting their every move, and the reoccuring sharp, startling and worrisome sound of a pistol slide being drawn. Skrillex makes great use of his song "Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites", particularly when he breaks it down from an electronic dubstep monster (awesome enough) into an actual symphonic arrangement with piano and strings - that touch really made me feel that the circle was somehow complete, that this movie is both of the times and about them, and the sometimes ludicruous idea of reoccuring Britney Spears songs only cements that notion. After all, this is a generation brought up on her music as the absolute and familiar template of entertainment - yet again, that Disney Club generation attempting to break out into the world in all the wrong ways.

What can you criticize about Spring Breakers? Well, to some viewers I'm sure it will feel very disjointed and repulsive. Not all scenes make perfect logical sense and not all dialogue is crystal clear or delivered in a manner that we expect. But it wasn't in Easy Rider either. If you're a prude, then this movie simply isn't for you, because the sight of all these naked young women will blind you for life. If you're a hardcore party animal, this isn't actually for you either. Go watch Animal House, Project X or Superbad. But if you're looking for an unusual and riveting experience, a portal into the now, and what may stand as a crucially defining film in years to come (or just a very well made one if you grasp it), then I think this could actually stand tall alongside films like Bonnie & Clyde, Natural Born Killers or, dare I even say it, Scarface.

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