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Entries in Spring Breakers [2013] (1)

Saturday
Mar232013

Spring Breakers (2013)

Childish Borenography

I didn't see Spring Breakers. I survived it.

Look, I'm as red-blooded and heterosexually horny as the next guy, but Harmony Korine's latest movie is excruciatingly dull--a modern-day Ludovico Technique of repetitive, morally bankrupt excess that practically murdered my attraction to booze, breasts, and bullets. It also strained my will to stay in the theatre more than any film in recent memory. Making it to the end credits imbued me with the strength of a god. Pardon me while I leap Everest in a single bound.

Ostensibly a story about four college friends who get mixed up in the drug trade while vacationing in Florida, Spring Breakers is really about suckering audiences into paying for the privilege of seeing former Disney teen stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens (as well as current sensation Ashley Benson of Pretty Little Liars fame) show off their tanned, supple goods in between doing bong hits and furiously masturbating machine guns. 

The jokes on you, pervs! The only one of the four to get naked is the actress no one gives a shit about: Rachel Korine, whose claim to fame is being the director's wife. Sure, the marquee starlets show off plenty of side-boob, and if you squint reeeally hard, you might see an eighth of Hudgens' areola during a pool scene. But if you're going into this movie (or, more precisely, bringing it home) for the sole purpose of playing lead skin flute in a private rendition of High School Musical, I'm sad to say there's not enough material here to warm up your instrument.

Yep, that's about as crude a way as possible to sum up the film, but I can think of no other reason to suffer through it. The studio knew this. You'll notice that all the publicity centers on the "Good Girls Gone Bad" angle, and that's because the suits need as many asses in seats as possible on opening weekend before the general public catches on. What might they be catching onto, you ask?

If we're to consider Spring Breakers as a film, it amounts to a half-hour of forward story momentum, which is broken up amongst sixty additional minutes of Spring Break B-roll. There's a random cutaway to swirling fake boobs getting drenched in beer approximately every two minutes; the first five minutes of the movie, in fact, are a credits-free, credits-sequence-style montage that sets the tone for the rest of the movie: pointless displays of naked, stoned idiocy.

Perhaps if this had come out in 1995 it would have amounted to something. But we all have the Internet now, and can pull up not only naked pictures of Hudgens at a moment's notice (for free, mind you), but enough downloadable videos of celebrity look-alikes doing God knows what to themselves, each other, and countless human and non-human partners that this kind of art-house Skinemax nonsense seems cute in comparison. Worse yet, Korine comes across as the worst kind of navel-gazing indie snob who thinks he's too cool for the Internet, and therefore has no idea how not shocking his rejected film-school thesis really is.

The saddest part of this tiresome production is that it ends on a morally ambiguous high note. Two of the girls split early on, leaving their friends to become pseudo-badass hit women for a local crime lord named Alien (James Franco*). Spring Breakers' big climax involves a Scarface-lite shootout at a rival gangsta's (Gucci Mane) estate, which our space-cadet heroines survive without a hair out of place. They drive off in a stolen car with vague notions of doing something better with their lives, but this tacked on change of heart is as mysterious as the head bad guy's decision to have absolutely no armed security inside his actual house.

The message is a dangerous one, and I take solace in the fact that Spring Breakers is so blandly presented that I doubt the impressionable teen girls in the audience will stop sexting crotch shots to their girlfriends' boyfriends long enough to hear it. I'm not a prude, and I don't want every movie to be tied up in a glittery bow of positivity--but none of these characters deserve happiness, success, wealth, or fame. They're oblivious to everything but their own boredom, which must be fucked, snorted, and blown away at all costs. That kind of movie requires sharp writing, bold performances, and undeniable style in order to succeed.** Korine and his silly, semi-nude Disney kids are just whiny tourists without a map.

*Much has been made of Franco's performance, I assume by people who are new to the concept of actors acting. Yes, Alien is an entirely different character than Harry Osborne or the wizard of Oz, but white guys have parodied and adopted (to the point of parody) the black gangsta affect for years. No amount of corn rows, prison tattoos, or drawl-soaked free-style raps can cover up the fact that Alien is a younger, far less ambitious take on an archetype perfected by Gary Oldman in True Romance--and that was twenty years ago.

Sure, he's the highlight of the movie. But in the same way that flushing is the highlight of taking a shit, both are important and neither are discussion-worthy. In fairness, I did get a kick out of Franco's weird, strangely touching beach-side piano serenade of his girls to a Britney Spears tune--which, I predict, will be a YouTube sensation once this thing hits home video.

**See A Clockwork Orange and Natural Born Killers.