‘Spring Breakers’ (2012) Movie Review


Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco and Vanessa Hudgens in Spring Breakers

Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco and Vanessa Hudgens in Spring Breakers
Photo: Annapurna Films

It’s not so much that Spring Breakers is bad as much as it isn’t really all that good. It’s one of those films that will likely be reviled by most, find cult status with others and get a shrug of the shoulders from the rest. I fall in the latter group, finding comedy in some parts of it (mainly James Franco as a gold toothed rapping drug dealer) and being largely underwhelmed in other areas. Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers) this movie is more of an exploitation feature than anything else and at the same time rather experimental. For as often as the lead characters are on drugs, it begins to feel as if so was Korine while making it.

The story centers on a group of four college girls looking to get away. Faith (Selena Gomez) is the good girl and her three friends — Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) — are the wild ones. Spring break is on the horizon, but their lack of funds is making a trip to Florida’s beaches an impossibility. Candy, Brit and Cotty are unwilling to accept this reality and, disguised with ski masks, rob a restaurant with nothing more than a squirt gun and hammer. Spring break is now fully funded! Off to St. Pete Beach for fun in the sun, scooters, drinking, drugs and a little something they didn’t expect.

As one wild night leads to another, a party gets a little too wild and the four girls are arrested for possession. Appearing in court they learn they can either pay bail, which they can’t afford, or spend a couple days behind bars. With no option other than jail time it would seem spring break has come to a sudden end, but a guardian angel finds their cause and bails them out… Meet Alien (James Franco).

Alien is a local drug dealer and rapper with his hair braided in cornrows, teeth covered with metal and a philosophy that “bikinis and big booties are what life’s about”. With that I think you get a pretty good idea of the kind of guy we’re dealing with. Shortly after the girls decide to spend a little time with their savior, Faith bails on the situation and heads back home while the other three remain and are introduced to just how wild time with Alien can be… or is Alien the one about to learn a thing or two?

Korine fuels this 92-minutes of drugs, sex, guns and debauchery with a house-infused score that often thumps to a series of images of college students naked and partying on the beach or in hotel rooms. The film is one montage after another, images foreshadowing what’s to come surrounded by neon and black lights. It’s a theatrical rave experience minus the glow sticks and ecstasy. That is, when the girls aren’t holed up at Alien’s beachside home, holding guns, wearing pink ski masks and being serenaded by Alien next to his poolside piano singing Britney Spears’ “Everytime“.

The curious thing about Spring Breakers is that for all its focus on breasts, house music and drugs, a story of four lost girls trying to find their way is trying to break through the surface, but the erratic filmmaking just won’t let it loose. Well, that and James Franco, whose portrayal of Alien makes the film worth watching on its own.

Introducing Candy, Brit and Cotty to his house where guns, nun-chucks and swords adorn the wall, Alien’s bed is covered with stacks of money held in place by guns and the drugs are stacked neatly on the table. With arms open wide he exclaims, “Look at my shit!” He brags about his shorts — “Every fucking color!” — brags about his gold bullets, blue Kool-Aid and the fact he has both Calvin Klein Escape and cK Be fragrances, spritzing himself as he says it. He’s a mad man and it’s quite funny and yet it also gets quite tedious. (You can watch a portion of that scene by clicking on “Clip #2” here.)

Korine often repeats scenes and repeats dialogue for dramatic effect, but sooner rather than later you just want to say, “Yeah, got it the first three times.” There is a definite draw in the way Korine shot the film, but that same draw begins to push you away. The relentless nature of the constant strobe of images on screen never seems to let up and its redundancies make what is a 92-minute film feel like it is well over two hours. A lot of this is due to the fact any kind of theme it may be trying to get across is never fully conceived and the exploitative nature of the rest of it soon begins to wear thin.

The best comparison I can seem to come up with is to imagine a friend drunk and making a fool of themselves. At first it’s funny and you wonder what they’re going to do next. But soon it becomes tiresome even if every now and again they still do something that makes you laugh. This movie is exactly the same way and once it reaches its conclusion you’re just happy you got that drunk out of your house, even if you may laugh and have fun talking about them the next day.