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Spring Breakers

2013 | 94 min | R | 2.39:1

Spring Breakers


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Movie appeal

Dark humor58%


Theatrical release date

 15 March, 2013
 05 April, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Spring Breakers


Screenshots from Spring Breakers Blu-ray

Spring Breakers Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 21, 2013

I'm willing to give writer/director Harmony Korine the special consideration he requires when he makes a movie. He's an impish artist, prone to deep free dives into excess while treating stupidity as sport. He's created interesting pictures during his career, including "Gummo" and "Julien Donkey-Boy," though even his best work has a way of feeling like an endless night spent inside an art-school drunk tank, surround by oddities as nausea sets in early. His latest is "Spring Breakers," currently sucking up blog buzz for the provocative way it parades around former Disney Channel stars in various stages of undress and intoxication. I wish there was more to the viewing experience than gyrating flesh and deep inhales, but Korine is trapped in a shtick coma, attempting to collect random images, poorly-defined fears, and swinging bare breasts and form it all into cinematic poetry.

Bored out of their minds at college, potheads Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Harmony's wife, Rachel Korine) are aching to run away to spring break festivities in Florida, hoping to coax Christian classmate Faith (Selena Gomez, in a smaller role) to join the crew. Failing to come up with the necessary cash, the threesome decides to try burglary to fund their dreams, smashing their way to success, soon off to the best week of their lives. After time spent drinking, drugging, and scootering, the four girls are busted for possession, locked in jail, which causes Faith to panic. Coming to the rescue is Alien (James Franco), a drug-dealing thug looking to become King of Florida with his gangsta cred and rap skills. Bailing the ladies out, he hopes to make the pushover college students part of his harem, finding Candy and Brit up to the challenge of the position. Ready to get rid of Archie (Gucci Mane), the local underworld competition, Alien gears up for a major fight, training his ladies by robbing local spring break partygoers.

"Spring Breakers" exists in a dreamscape of popsicle colors and sun-soaked skies. It's a position of unreality that Korine has explored throughout his career, enjoying himself around exaggerated depictions of family life and youth, getting off on peculiarity and a wandering sense of storytelling. "Spring Breakers" doesn't disrupt this fuzzy focus, only moving it to the electric beaches of Florida, where the kids of America are engaging in all sorts of debauchery under the guise of academic release. Korine captures a healthy sense of the excitable activity, offering slo-mo shots of topless girls, phallic beer bottle eruptions, and faces frozen in revelry, sustaining the traditional version of the vacation explosion.

There's a dark side to the fun as well, and this is where "Spring Breakers" spends most of its time. There's no characterization to dig into (the Christian girl's name is Faith, which is a good indicator of the screenplay's lack of invention), with Korine only providing vague sketches of desires, more interested in the movement of bodies than the stirring of souls. False beats of introspection are spritzed on the frame with all the precision of a drug store squirt gun, listening in on the ladies as they confess euphoria with the initial stages of their spring break adventure, sharing joy with loved ones on the phone. Korine suggests the trip to be a transcendental experience for the group, expanding their consciousness with chemical abuse and date rape scenarios, while Alien's home world of guns and grills takes the ladies deeper into the unknown, finding Brit and Candy responding sexually to the criminal's groaning swagger. It's all hogwash; an insistent male fantasy dressed up as brain-bursting empowerment for infantilized women, drowned in a sea of flesh (Korine loves to linger on the soft parts) and rap video heroism. And to make the viewing experience truly maddening, the filmmaker repeats dialogue over and over, working to bend the reality of the moment through reverberation, perhaps simulating the attention span of the characters. Three run-throughs is an artistic statement. Four suggests the director is hard of hearing.

If there's one element worthy of praise in "Spring Breakers," it's the cinematography from Benoit Debie, who shot the doomsday atmosphere of "Irreversible" over a decade ago. There's a glorious attention to Floridian colors and acidic lightning that's genuinely interesting, creating a memorable cinematic illness that communicates the toxicity of the setting with greater precision than the dismal performances or the fortune cookie screenwriting.

It's difficult to tell if "Spring Breakers" is a goof, since Korine often takes the protracted absurdity to heart, even scoring a grim montage of criminal activity to the Britney Spears hit, "Everytime" (which begins life as a poolside sing-along with Alien and the ladies). Comedy is scarce, yet the general throb of the feature could be interpreted as satire for those with a heavenly sense of patience, though there's little evidence to back up the argument. "Spring Breakers" isn't nearly as meaningful or surreal as Korine imagines, primarily focused on photographing loosely bikinied and topless teenagers indulging in lascivious behavior. It's a sleazy, snoozy, borderline insufferable motion picture. If you see the film, just know that you'll probably have to register as a sex offender afterwards.

Starring: James Franco, Selena Gómez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine
Director: Harmony Korine

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