Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★½

Not since Ron Fricke's Samsara have I experienced such an enormous sensory and auditory overload. Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers annihilates both senses with absolute impunity, truly making this one of the most engrossing and consuming pictures so far this year. It possesses a style and a message that is so bluntly honest and terrifically captured that it deeply pains me that the audience that needs to see this the most likely will not, due to its eclectic nature and limited release.

Let me begin by saying that this is not the film you think it is. The trailers and commercial spots have done a solid job at attempting to communicate this, but I feel some will still be expecting something a bit too familiar. To go into Spring Breakers expecting something along the lines of a raunchy comedy will be nothing but a cruel and colorful letdown. This is a smart, vibrant, hypnotic fever-dream of a film, heavily accentuating a mix between mainstream raucousness and subversive indie-style. It's something unlike anything I've seen in years.

The plot follows Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine, writer/director Harmony Korine's wife), lifelong besties who decide to ditch their monotonous lives to hunger for something bigger and badder over spring break. They head to the sun-soaked "paradise" that, allegedly, is Florida, where the girls, already low on cash, first commit a robbery on a fast-food restaurant in order to fund their trip. After that, it's all the dancing, partying, drug-using, drinking, screwing, and gyrating they can stomach.

The girls are then arrested for being a part of a large band of twentysomethings, who entirely demolished a hotel-room. They don't spend too much time in prison since local, second-rate rapper who calls himself "Alien" (played by James Franco in an astonishingly direct fashion) decides to bail them out. In return, he takes the four girls (and then three, when one boldly makes the decision to leave when things are beginning to go awry) under his wing, showing him his wealthy lifestyle and exposing them to the violent drug-culture.

This story doesn't move nearly as fast as you'd like to think, either. It's punctuated frequently by loud, bombastic musical numbers (often scored by popular techno-artist Skrillex), repetitive montages that heavily emphasize nudity and senseless debauchery, long shots of dreamlike sequences, among other things. It is one of the most accurate replications of this MTV-driven culture I've seen in years. I will go ahead and say there's not another movie you should see this year as much as this one.

Writer/director Harmony Korine has erected his career off of making shocking, often nihilistic pictures with some sort of emphasis on the degradation of teen culture. His debut film Gummo remains as shocking and as raw as it did when it was made in 1997. However, his best work is still Kids (which he wrote, and his close friend Larry Clark brilliantly directed), which centered on an HIV-positive teenager who made a habit out of deflowering young girls in New York City. The film was hard to watch, heart-wrenching to fathom, and so jaw-droppingly pure and authentic in its dialog that it would be difficult for me to experience again.

Korine's statement in Spring Breakers is one that is difficult to directly pinpoint, but I think I may have something. What I can extract is that Korine is trying to show how inconsequential the actions of adolescences have become within the last few years. It seems with every decision, we move further and further from thinking of others and how they may be affected by our choices and attempt to achieve self-gratification and satisfy our impulsiveness. This is a lethal, depressing, but an apparently upcoming standard in teen behavior. Take for example the robbery that happens early in the film. The girls do not seem to carefully plan the event, hence the very impromptu execution we see, and frighteningly, show no remorse when the incident is over. Only one girl, who ups the courage to leave the group, becomes tired of it all and heads home. The other three girls seem to be unleashing something more than just a "YOLO" attitude when hanging out with Alien; something far deeper and more psychologically troubling.

Moreover, the neon-cinematography featured here can just be described as hypnotic and nothing else. It's plagued with every color of the rainbow, often resulting in a dizzying, unrelenting trance that gives this film the vibe and uncompromising energy it needs. I can only seem to equate the effect the cinematography has on the viewer to watching the color bars on a TV (usually when a network signs off) and having someone shake the TV in every possible direction. This leads to the overwhelming sensory annihilation I spoke of earlier.

Spring Breakers does everything boldly, beautifully, and shockingly unsettling, as it even goes as far as to brilliantly subject former Disney-branded starlets Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens to the drug-fueled, sex-crazed drudgery of this film. If this doesn't sound like your kind of film, 21 and Over should still be playing in the same multiplex, not too far down from the theater Spring Breakers is in. Perhaps that is more your speed, and that's perfectly fine. Just be aware that that a growing culture and, quite possibly, the one you enjoy, is being satirizes and accurately depicted in a theater near you. Happy viewing.

NOTE: My video review of Spring Breakers, www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7qUTpYRQ6o

Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Gucci Mane. Directed by: Harmony Korine.

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