Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Breakers (2013) - Movie Review

Imagine a Girls Gone Wild video gussied up and then passed off as 'art'...

That's the feeling I got when watching Spring Breakers, the latest film from Harmony Korine.  Much of the film made me feel like a dirty old man watching montages of random, naked girls drinking and doing drugs.  Even the main actresses have no shortages of closeups of their cleavage and crotch shots.  Oh, but Spring Breakers has a message and social commentary.  It's nothing you haven't seen done better in other films, including ones by Korine, but we'll get to that later.

Three dumb girls (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine (Harmony's wife)), and their more level-headed, religious friend, Faith (Selena Gomez) take a trip to Florida for Spring Break.  If you're wondering why I'm not referring to the other girls by name, it's because I don't recall hearing their names at any point of the film, where they make a point that you know Faith's.  Anyway, the girls don't have enough money to afford heading down to Florida, so the three dumb ones decide to rob a restaurant first.  Their actions immediately set the tone for the rest of the film, and let you know that there's really nothing to like about them.

Once they get to Florida, they engage in the typical Spring Break debauchery.  Lots of drinking, drugs, etc.  That part is fine. If this part of the movie is trying to make a point that society is in decline because young kids party, or we've become too hedonistic, then they failed.  Partying at Spring Break is nothing new and has gone on for decades.  Plenty of people have a time in their life where they let loose.  I don't have an issue with this, and there are lots of well adjusted and successful people that have partied at some point in their life.

However, things get real for the girls when they get arrested for doing drugs.  It's compounded when they don't have money for bail, but a local rapper and criminal named Alien (James Franco) bails them out.  Anyone with half a brain knows he didn't do this for altruistic reasons, and he picked the right group of girls.  To illustrate how dumb they are, when they meet Alien, they seem to have no clue as to who he is, despite that earlier in the movie they are in the front row of one of his concerts. Now maybe you could write this off as being so drunk and high that you don't remember being at a concert just a day or two ago, but the concert was decorated with aliens, and the same symbols were all over Alien's car.  Were these scenes shown out of order?

Faith is immediately creeped out and senses things are about to take a turn for the worse, so she has the good sense to go home.  Maybe the lesson there is to trust your instincts.  The others continue the party, destroying any remaining sympathy you may have had for them.  Movies about unlikable people only work where there's a sliver of humanity about them, or they are hilarious.  Neither is true here.

Another sledgehammer-like message about the film was naming the good, religious girl Faith.  This is a message that's generally always been lost on me, as I don't believe that religious faith is an absolute requirement to have good morals or a conscience.  The whole movie is trying to make several points, but they are so obscured by nonsense and clumsy film making that they really lost all impact for me.  This is compounded by the fact that I read interviews where Harmony Korine says stuff like he wrote the film to make up for all of the spring breaks he missed out on, and that he's an old pervert.  I think that dilutes the message a bit more, as it doesn't sound like he was out to make a point, but just make a movie about hot young girls at Spring Break.

I credit the film for at least having a stylish, music video look about it, and there was some great use of color, especially at the end.  The music video aspect was hammered home by the Skrillex-powered soundtrack.  I don't care for electronic music or dubstep, so I tended to tune out on the score.  I also don't know what a Skrillex is?  Is it related to Skittles?  I'm more of a Goobers guy.

Clearly the best part about the film was James Franco's performance as Alien.  He's pretty funny and I thought his performance was inspired at times.  However, the act tires out after a bit, y'all, and it becomes a less funny version of J-Roc from Trailer Park Boys.  Know what I'm sayin'?

I thought the rest of the film was a mess though.  There's some extremely choppy and repetitive editing in the film. It constantly jumps around, sometimes just minutes back and forth in the same scene.  Scenes are reused, and lines of dialog are repeated in voice over throughout, not that there's a ton of meaningful dialog anyway.  I found it extremely annoying to sit though, and then made worse by the fact that movie crawls along at a snails pace.  It's a 90 minute movie that felt like it was never going to end, and probably only had about 60 minutes of actual story if it had been edited linearly, and they got rid of all of the party footage that didn't feature any of the main characters.

Speaking of, there's a lot of nudity in the film, and most of it comes during this girls gone wild segments of the film.  These are nameless kids, and there's nothing about these scenes that are fun to watch.  As I mentioned before, I felt like an old perv watching them.

I also really hated the ending and thought it took any meaning away from whatever points they were trying to make.  I just couldn't suspend my disbelief to see two bikini-clad women that have no weapons training just walk into a criminal's compound and shoot up the place without ever reloading (where do you hide spare ammo in a bikini) or even getting grazed by a bullet.  It also bothered me that they went from knocking off a restaurant to murdering several people in cold blood over the course of a few days.  They drive away without a hint of remorse or any consequence.  These chicks are psychopaths.

Was that the point of all of this?  To show that young kids have no conscience anymore?  No sense of right or wrong?  That we've become desensitized to violence by playing violent video games?  Several times you hear them say to 'just pretend it's a video game', so it's another message I thought was just too heavy-handed. There are plenty of kids that play violent video games all the time, that aren't homicidal maniacs. Spring Breakers seems to be focusing on the exceptions as the rule. Maybe I'm being too literal, but that's how my mind works.

I hate using this word to describe a movie, but I found Spring Breakers to be very pretentious and tedious to watch.  It's a slick looking Girls Gone Wild video that tries to have a message, but it's as heavy-handed as you can get, and muddled by terrible, repetitive editing. This isn't anything you haven't already seen or heard before.  I can't recommend this one.

1 (out of 5) Death Stars


  1. I actually have the opposite opinion regarding the editing. I liked it like that. I liked the play with the narrative story line which usually tends to be from point A to point B. Nonlinear narrative is much more fun..

    1. Sure, nonlinear narrative can be more fun, when it's in better movies. ;) I think it was done here to cover for the fact that there's barely an hour of actual story and pad the runtime. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I understand your disapointment with thsi flick, because I had the same thoughts when I first watched it. I was trying to find the story and this movie is not about a story it's about moments, and this movie has a lot of really cool moments. The reason the girls probably didn't remember Alien is because they were probably drunk. Plus before they met the guy they were already pretty hardcore Gangstas. Thanks for contributing your review for The LAMB