Spring Breakers Review
By Bret Dorman
I don’t go on “Spring Break.” I don’t go to clubs. I don’t even really go to concerts, of any kind. I go to movies. So rarely do I expose or surround myself with the “Spring Break” culture. But I can tell you this: It’s not my kind of fun. I understand the core concept of the “You Only Live Once” (aka YOLO, y’all!) mentality and I completely understand how people want to do what feels good, live life, experience something fun, and all that jazz. But at the same time it is pretty disgusting how very young kids see this and actively want to try to idolize it without fully understanding what they are doing. Very young girls with “Juicy” or (in the case of the movie) “DTF” on the butt of their pants is gross. I don’t think these are the signs of the end times or the ultimate demise of society, but there is a conversation to be had about the “baby steps” we’ve allowed that has led to 12 year old girls wearing two piece bathing suits squeezing each others’ butts and posting them on twitter for everyone to see.
Now all that could be my discussion of Spring Breakers, or it could be a discussion based on ANY Wild-N-Crazy “Spring Break” examination piece, like a magazine article or 60 Minutes news segment. Spring Breakers doesn’t challenge any ideas I’ve had about this culture before I came in, it just held up its content like a mirror and asked “What do YOU think of THAT?”The Story: 4 girls (three “Disney ones” and one who is married to the director) rob a fast food joint then go on Spring Break in Florida then get arrested then become gangsters. They sort of join foces with Alien (James Franco), a gangster/rapper/American Dream seeker. The story is either a cautionary tale, disgusting portrait of “today’s” youth, or a blueprint for a fun time depending on how you look at it. Also, guns are very phallic!
On paper this movie sounds dumb. “Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson go on Spring Break.” Right… But after seeing the trailer I can NOT imagine how anyone was expecting this movie to be anything other than what it was. I mean, yes it still looks dumb, but it looks like a deeply meditative look on the “Spring Break” culture and the destruction of today’s youth. Not a silly party movie with a couple of minor “Uh-Oh”s and awkward misunderstanding’s leading to a lesson one might get from a Saturday Morning Cartoon about friendship and responsibility.
To be honest, I didn’t know if I should go in to this movie expecting an insightful arthouse flick or pretentious exploitation. Or perhaps both? What I didn’t expect what neither. And that’s what I feel I got. I’m a visual person, so of course I’d prefer this over some damning news article. In fact, the visuals of the movie are impressive. Its like a Terrence Malick film on ecstasy. The camera work is non-judgemental as it floats through the mayhem of the various parties and drifts through the dialogue scenes. And the colors! SO MANY COLORS! Neon lights, black lights, strobe lights, red lights, blue lights! I admire the attempt at a completely un-biased look at these characters and I admire the non-traditional editing and storytelling. So even though I admire this movie for trying different things can I really pick on it at the same time?
Yes.While this movie plays like a satire it also spends entirely too much time highlighting the negative parts of “Spring Break.” The only difference between this kind of footage and news footage is Spring Breakers is more polished. Although it is funny how tame and therefor ignorant other movies seem in comparison. Most silly childish movies aimed for teens try to highlight the “fun” of “Spring Break” while also not pushing things too far. But this movie goes for it, crossing that line and showing the excessive nudity, reckless abandon, drugs, and aggressively male dominated atmosphere. By removing very small barely covering anything at all articles of clothing this movie goes from vulgar to morally reprehensible for most. Other people (like myself) see more damage in trying to protect people from the vulgarity while still trying to cash in on how risqué and scandalous it is.
Faith, the good girl, initially wants to let loose and find herself, but is unaware of the lurking dangers looming in the dark. Brit and Candy are not only ready, but willing and able to tackle these dangers head on and turn them in their favor. Cotty is simply “the fourth girl in Spring Breakers.” Some of them can’t take the pressure of living a completely care free life and having to take what you want since you aren’t earning it and others embrace that way of thinking. I was reminded of Michel from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, in which he steals cars, drifts around aimlessly, sees multiple women while trying to find love, robs people, steals things, and does what he pleases. But in that movie, he kills someone right in the beginning and the consequences of that action follow him throughout, adding a sense of looming dread as we wait to find out if he will pay for it or not. In Spring Breakers, the characters slowly fall into the gangster life style and their actions are never really punished (but also not glamouraized, or some may argue both punished and glamourized?). I’m not asking this movie to take my side, it just would be nice to have a side in general. Watching people party and wax poetic about “ordinary life and wanting more” and shoot some guns is fine in small doses, but even clocking in at 94 minutes this movie still feels padded.Again, party scenes go on for way too long. I get it. Boobs. Beer. Drugs. Dancing. Young people giving the middle finger to the camera. DUB STEP! What’s more confusing is that the characters are all having a genuinely great time during these scene, letting loose, having fun! And then we get that intercut with meditative moments of reflection or calls to family members. The line “the people here are so nice” over the image of a bunch of strangers barely or entirely naked partying is neat… the first time. The montages in this movie with their spurts of non-linear editing help break the movie into more digestible parts, but even this A.D.D. style gets boring when it goes on too long. Characters will repeat themselves, sometimes verbatim, 3 or 4 different times within the same montage.
The movie gets a much needed breath of fresh air and direction as Alien charms his way into the story despite his shadiness and scumbag-ery. While I’m not the biggest Franco fan, I was completely hypnotized by his performance. Alien makes no illusions about his purpose. He isn’t misguided. He wants to be bad, which is why he attracts some members of our group of four girls and repels others. He is living the American Dream. He has so much stuff! And he just takes what he wants. And most interestingly, that sense of danger he gives off to the girls is replaced with love. He does genuinely care about them and they do seem right for him.SPOILERS!
Okay, so this is a question more than an analysis. I fancy myself a pretty good movie watcher, but I was confused by the ending of this movie. We get the two girls, Brit and Candy talking to their parents, saying how much they’ve changed, while they cast their pink masks into the ocean. Then we get the big shootout. Obviously the big shootout came first. But I’m not sure if these character really changed and if so, what prompted them to. Sure they were in danger and killed a bunch of people, but they seemed to not have a problem with that before or while they were doing it. The last two images of the movie are them driving off in the orange lambo, then them kissing a dead Alien and running into the gun fight. So where does the lambo scene come in and where does the movie “officially” end? Is the lambo only after the shootout or is it after the phone calls? Do the characters really change or are they still running recklessly into any situation full of confidence and without any fear?
I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with something, but I find no reward in thinking about this movie other than just an entertaining and visually pretty flick. Maybe I’m not the “target audience” or maybe I’m not looking at it right or maybe I misunderstood it entirely?
In Conclusion, it is pretty serendipitous (to me) I just rewatched Sling Blade right before seeing this movie. Why? Because with Spring Breakers it is fun mimic James Franco or the girls with lines like “Spppprrrinnnnnggg brrreeaaaakkk…. (etc, etc)” or “Bikinis and Big Booties y’all!” It is fun to turn Spring Breakers into a joke. It’s fun to like the movie ironically. Same with Sling Blade. Let’s make fun of the way Karl talks! Killer “retard” punishes evil! Tehehe! “I reckon I like them French Fried Potaters.” But with Sling Blade, I feel there is a rewarding conversation to be had about the subject material and the movie itself. With Spring Breakers I feel its mostly music video and montage, with some conversation starters sprinkled in for good measure. I don’t think the movie is bad, I just think it is kind of dumb.
Final Grade: C-