Advertised as a party film, Spring Breakers is the complete opposite of what you’d expect the film to be. Halfway through Spring Breakers the characters are given a choice, they can stay in Florida and risk everything or they can leave and get home safely. The audience is given the same choice. The audience can stay and potentially suffer the consequences, or they can back out early and still keep their idealistic ways in tact. Are you tough enough to go the distance?
The film follows four childhood friends. Brit, Candy and Cotty are the rebellious ones from the group, and Faith the more grounded girl. The four are tired of their small-town life and decide to go on spring break. The problem is money and the lack of it. Brit and Candy decide to rob a diner, and it nets them a ton of dough, enough to bank-roll their entire break. The four are now on their way to the party central of America. However, not all goes to plan when the girls get arrested and it looks like their spring break might just end up being a bad tip.
Harmony Korine’s direction and writing is fierce. Never one to take a backwards step, he is fearless and upfront about his intentions in all his films. Spring Breakers keeps this trend going. I feel as if Korine purposely asked the film to be advertised as a party film. The first two minutes is a dubstep drenched frenzy of drinking, drugs, sex, nudity and dancing on a gorgeous Florida beach. This gives a majority of those seeing exactly what they are after… drunk gits and big tits. But then you are suddenly sucked into dark and gloomy small-town America where life is dull, being a teenager is depressing and life generally sucks. Within a few minutes Korine has shown us the dream and the reality.
Korine reveals his cards early. He isn’t here to celebrate the generation, or even parody it. Korine instead crafts a 90 minute arthouse drama that shines a light back on the very people that are paying to see it. If you love big parties, drugs and booze than Korine has built a film purely to expose the sad little individual that he believes you are. As such teenagers will go in expecting Project X 2: Spring Break Adventures, but instead are getting Kids 2: Life Isn’t a Beach. And that is genius, I doubt it’ll change lives but Korine is getting the last laugh and pulling a prank on an unsuspecting audience. He is using a generations nasty nature against them to expose them for the frauds they are.
The film is as creative as I’ve seen. Everybody behind the camera is one of the best in their respective field, and for a low-budget independent production I’m honestly in awe of the talent assembled. Korine has taken a bunch of highly creative individuals all with vastly different styles and thrown them into a blender. The result is like nothing I’ve seen before and they all deserve individual praise for their work, so let’s do that.
Cliff Martinez and Skrillex score the proceedings. The old man and the new kid are two of the best in their chosen forms of music, but together they are a force. Skrillex knows the culture, Martinez knows the form and they end up being a perfectly matched duo. The soundtrack is already a favourite of mine and one I’ve had on repeat since seeing the film, the pair capture the vibe of the film wonderfully.
Cinematographer Benoît Debie unsettled a generation of film fans with his work on Irreversible. Debie decide to shoot Spring Breakers on film and the results are gorgeous. It is an inspired choice and one that likely made the film much more expensive than it needed to be. It would have been easier for Debie to shoot the crazy and large party sequences with digital, but this is a great example of why film will always look superior.
Oscar nominated film editor Douglas Crise is tasked with the hardest job of all, Korine’s film almost solely relies on the success of the bizarre editing. The repetitive nature of the film makes it tough to work out if Crise’s editing is good or bad, however it certainly is original and cannot be compared to anything I’ve seen. His quick cuts and constant scene jumping will grow tiresome for many, but it feels as erratic as the characters on screen.
With everything behind the camera working together perfectly, it is left to the cast to deliver engaging characters for the audience to invest in. Development isn’t a high priority for Korine, he doesn’t exactly want the audience to like the four girls. However all the characters develop naturally thanks to the willing acting from the inexperienced cast. Whilst they are portrayed as horrible people, the audience gets remarkably invested. It isn’t good investment, it is investment in seeing how these lives end and whether or not they straighten out.
James Franco as Alien gets all the big dialogue and he is absorbing. Alien is spring break – immature, over the top, he believes he is from another planet. The rules don’t apply to Alien. Franco’s performance is rightfully applauded, however he wasn’t the shining light for me. The core group of girls could have easily phoned it in and created caricatures of what spring breakers are meant to be. Instead they go much further than anybody was expecting, with each one hitting all the right marks on their way from delusional teenagers to wayward young adults. Ashley Benson and Selena Gomez stand out as the best for me. Benson’s range from sweet to psychotic and her excellent facial expressions mark her as one to watch. Whilst Gomez, perhaps playing herself, is great as the quiet and grounded church-girl out of her depth.
Spring Breakers is an early highlight for 2013 and one that might be hard to budge in terms of pure creativity and originality. Korine’s direction and writing is hard to swallow for a lot of people, he has no respect for structure and he threw his rulebook out long ago. As such I can’t recommend it. I imagine most people will hate it and find it weak, needlessly confronting and exploitive. However I loved it and all the things people hate are what I love about it. The bizarre look and feel of the film and the performances alone make it a film I already adore, but the repetitive pushing of its basic themes are a genius way to approach a generation that is repetitive. It is the perfect time capsule.