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‘Spring Breakers’ Is Deceptively Brilliant

by Trey Hock on March 22, 2013

in Print Reviews,Reviews

Harmony Korine has never been a subtle or kind filmmaker. Films such as Julian Donkey-Boy, Trash Humpers, and Gummo are aggressive and toy with the line between art and exploitation.

It is only because of Korine’s acerbic and pugilistic oeuvre that I can with a straight-face and complete seriousness say that his new movie Spring Breakers is his most mature film, and the craft and control that Korine exerts on his medium is incredible.

In Spring Breakers, Korine appears to posit a single question, or perhaps a single desire. What if the Spring Break-at-all-cost attitude that so many high school and college students seem to adopt around this time of year, what if you took that die young party forever mentality and pushed it until it breaks? What if you let people behave as if there were no consequences only to start exerting more and more severe consequences once there was no easy way home?

For the first twenty minutes of his film, Korine fills the screen with super slow motion shots of beer drenched breasts, young men flexing and pretending to jackoff their beer bottle dicks, which ejaculate sudsy, foamy light beer on to the faces of expectant young women. It’s Spring Break ya’ll. It’s all about bikinis and big booties.

And then Korine makes us all pay.

The situations become more and more depraved and far more dangerous. The four friends, Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine), are arrested for alcohol and drug abuse, only to get bailed out by the deliciously trashy Alien (James Franco).

At this point the insular and affluent world of Spring Break Florida comes into direct conflict with impoverished townies of the real Florida. There are clear racial and social divides and Korine takes us all along as we explore these in the guise of a crazy heist film. The final scenes and the ending are almost as wonderfully ludicrous as the idea of Spring Break itself.

No detail is left out. Take for instance the casting of Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, two of Disney’s young starlets. Then there is Ashley Benson, star or Eastwick and Pretty Little Liars, and Glee’s Heather Morris. It is almost as if Korine is actively welcoming the demographic of people into the theater who he excoriates in his film. The move couldn’t be more satisfying.

And lest we forget there is James Franco.

If the day glow bikinis and pink unicorn ski masks weren’t enough to cement its cult status, then Franco’s portrayal of rapper, dope man, gunrunner, Alien will make Spring Breakers a permanent fixture in the cult film pantheon.

Almost everything that comes out of Alien’s gold-toothed mouth is brilliantly quotable, but Franco gives us more than a caricature. He is able to make Alien at times silly, scary, sensitive and horrific. The achievement is remarkable, and my only worry is that the hilarity of lines about “dark tanning oil” and Alien’s “sheeyat” will overshadow Franco’s excellent performance.

With the buzz already growing from its limited release, many people will go and see Spring Breakers for all of the wrong reasons. The same could be said of Starship Troopers, A Clockwork Orange, or a number of other gritty films which ask dark questions, but the fact that some filmgoers love these films for all the wrong reasons doesn’t make them less powerful.

Spring Breakers is all the more brilliant because of the throngs of audience members who cheer the screen, without irony, and wish that their Spring Break would never end.

Spring Break forever, bitches.

In addition to contributing to Scene-Stealers, Trey makes short films and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute. Follow him here:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jessica maria March 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Great review…I agree, surprisingly. I went into that theater thinking I was probably going to hate it, and that it would most likely offend me. Neither happened. I loved it. And you’re right about Franco; I was not expecting him to be that good! I even liked the script/dialogue and all it’s repetitiveness. I’m kind of flabbergasted that I liked this movie that much!


2 Trey Hock March 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

So glad that you enjoyed the movie and review. Sprang Break forever!


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