I debated about writing my Spring Breakers experience as one long stream of consciousness because trying to articulate my feelings about this film in any other form seemed almost impossible. But here goes…
I left the movie, directed by cult film icon Harmony Korine, feeling like I had just spent twenty-four hours in a trashy nightclub. I walked home smelling phantom odors: lip gloss, sun tan lotion and Malibu rum. My eyes were having a hard time adjusting to lights that weren’t fluorescent. I was angry, I was disgusted, I was in love.
Spring Breakers is the most unnecessarily thought provoking movie I’ve seen in a really long time – it’s far too shallow to warrant such a heady reaction and yet it does. And therein lies its brilliance. Is it just a superficial, sociopathic joy ride or is it a clever commentary on the youth culture of today: sexually charged, self-entitled and having lost all sense of morality? Is it an anti-feminist mess or the most bizarre film about female empowerment I’ve ever seen? The fun part is you’ll never really know.
The story is simple: four college misfits (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Selena Gomez) use the money they stole while robbing a restaurant to fund a tequila soaked, bare breasted spring break trip to Florida. After partying a little too hard they wind up in jail only to be bailed out by Alien, a corn rowed cartoon of a thug (James Franco) who arouses them into being his accomplices. From that point on the movie becomes an absurd, deliriously violent, roller coaster ride for the senses.
The four young former Disney-type starlets are both terrific and terrifying. Selena Gomez, who plays the good Christian who just couldn’t shake her sense of right and wrong, was as endearing to watch as a newborn puppy finding its footing. Vanessa Hudgens is almost a little too believable in her portrayal of the perpetually horny and soulless, Candy. And James Franco plays his white boy rapper-slash-drug lord with such accuracy that you’re left almost embarrassed about the fact that characters like his actually exist.
In fact, if there is something definite to take from this movie, it’s the idea that the despicable people, places and things that we’re supposed to be looking down on in the film not only exist in our reality, they’re celebrated.
Aesthetically, Korine chose to bask the movie in this 90s revival trend we seem to be caught up in. The world is bright, tanned, colorful, with most of the film illuminated exclusively by a rainbow of neon light bulbs. Admittedly, it’s abrasive and tacky and yet for some reason the effect is uncontrollably intoxicating.
Ask anyone who has seen the movie if they liked it and you’ll no doubt receive a long pause or an audible uneasiness as they debate whether or not to admit that they did. And that’s why this movie is so good. It leaves its audience feeling uncomfortably excited about what they’ve just seen.