Sean Cordy’s review published on Letterboxd:
My introduction to the mind of Harmony Korine…what a place that is! Some people are claiming this to be a masterpiece, others calling it self-indulgent garbage. I’m somewhere in the middle of the pack. It boasts incredible visuals and music, a bravura performance from Franco, and some great concepts about today’s youth. It’s essentially Korine’s exploration of the Spring Break he never had and it becomes incoherent and inflated because of that (exploration).
Spring Breakers is not a social commentary. It simply places the audience in a crazy place with questionable actions to most people. Korine is saying in the first part of the film that these actions from college students are okay. That is, only to an extent though. The underage drinking, debauchery, shirtlessness, and illegal drugs: are okay. But once the normal Spring Break turns into havoc, that’s when things get iffy.
The introduction to Spring Breakers is incredible. It introduces us to a crazy beach party and then transitions perfectly to the life of some college kids in pursuit of such a life. We meet the girls thinking about sexual interactions, drugs, and such. We meet, Faith, an innocent, church going girl. Each of these girls is equally intriguing in their introductions, and it’s done with great skill in terms of music, editing, and cinematography. It’s highlighted with electric blues and greens; as if they’re just treading water, waiting for a change in life to take them to the beaches of Florida. This is their dream, and it’s about to come true.
To me, Spring Breakers is not about Spring Break at all, but only utilizes [Spring Break] to show our dreams and how we fulfill them. Dreams are a motif that arises many times throughout the screenplay and hypnotic visuals. The girls fulfill their dream of Spring Break, and Korine condones their dream. But once they continue living in their dream, it turns into a nightmare. Dreams can coexist with reality, but only for a little while. We cannot live in our dreams, but simply have dreams to strive towards.
The second part of the film shows the transitions for the characters, from dream, to trying to mix reality with dreams very well. This is where Alien (Franco), an eccentric rapper, comes into play. He brings great presence, filling the screen with a bravura performance. He’s a character that is living his dream, and has figured out that the right way to live your dream in reality is to do everything the “wrong” way. Franco is the obvious strongpoint in the film to me. Aside from he and Gomez, the rest of the cast is underwhelming.
The film progressively goes down in its quality after Gomez goes home. It’s still good for awhile, but its tonal shift is abrupt and makes for a turbulent film. It rises back up again, mainly because of Franco, but cannot rise above its incredible opening stage and preceding portion. The ending is particularly messy. We’re left with two of the original (four) girls and Alien, on a mission to kill Alien’s former friend and ally. Maybe the relationship between Alien and his mentor was excluded to enhance a feeling of “this is wrong” in the audience, but it doesn’t fit the rest of the film’s tone and narrative. A great relationship of betrayal, former victories, and camaraderie could have been explored between the two “gangstas”, but Korine decides to show a redundant relationship between the girls and Franco; however entertaining it may be, it becomes superficial.
My main problem though is the ending. It’s just too far-fetched for its own good. How could they kill all of those gangsters so easily? How did Alien die, and not them? The two girls were only shown with a gun a few times before, but only using them as toys, not shooting. There is no cause that makes me believe that they could shoot up the place like they did. Their ending narration is also a bag of mixed nuts. It brings up some good points about finding yourself, but is rushed and poorly written; coming across as rushed and just a plot device to end it.
But for all of the problems that Spring Breakers has in writing and some incoherent direction, it almost makes up for in style. It’s highlighted with blues and greens in the beginning, and transitions to yellows, reds, and oranges to show the abrupt change in lifestyle of the Spring Breakers. The score from Martinez is incredible as well, and the editing contrasts lifestyles very well.
Spring Breakers brings some hypnotic aesthetics and some interesting ideas to the table with a scene stealing performance from Franco, but cannot overcome its own goals to really hit any of them home. Korine likes to focus too much on the superficial details rather than focus on the intriguing characters and their relationships.
Overall Grade: C+