Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers

Mike D'Angelo's review of Gummo, penned a little more than 15 years ago, inspired me to steer clear of Harmony Korine. That streak is broken by the acclaim for Spring Breakers, which proves Korine to be every bit the carnival barker that Mike made him out to be — but an incredibly talented one. I spent probably too much of the film's running time attempting to second-guess its motives. What did we have here? Was this a sex-negative diatribe on the evils of the occasional hedonistic indulgence? Was it hypocritically exploiting its ostensible audience's lurid appetite in order to lecture against it? Well, no, I'd have to say it's not. (Even if I were a straight dude, I doubt I'd find this movie sexy.) It seems clear to me that Korine operates to some extent under a pretense of deeper, perhaps moralistic meaning (and, weirdly, a lot of folks have taken the bait), yet I could find no significant statement or subtext buried within the content — mostly just narrative and aesthetic pleasures. I should pause at this juncture to emphasize that I believe this is a good thing. Moreover, I don't mean to minimize the achievement: In addition to being a great looking (and sounding) film, Spring Breakers effectively contemplates the illusory permanence of youth ("Spring Break forever") and artfully contrasts it with an elusive and ephemeral editing style (both hypnotic and unsettling, because we never quite get a toehold, especially in the first half). Its largely banal dialogue is also a red herring (as are other eye-rollers, like the religious girl being named "Faith"); as in Cosmopolis, Korine's characters alternate between performance and profundity, thankfully with a lot of humor. But, not unlike Upstream Color (albeit not as astonishingly), at its core this is a compelling genre film that exploits our understanding of cinematic language and Britney Spears to new and surprising effect. It left me wondering what I've been missing.

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