Spring Breakers (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Spring Breakers</strong> (2012)

(On Cable TV, January 2014) I would really like to dismiss Spring Breakers as just another piece of exploitative trash, badly-shot and hazily written in an attempt to revel in the debauchery of American Spring Break antics. And much of it is exactly that: Written and directed by notorious trash-master Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers does portray, in gritty pseudo-documentary style, the excesses of Spring Break and the depravity of modern teenagers. But only the most obstinate viewers won’t find a few deeper themes and artistic flourishes running throughout the film. The story of four college girls headed to Spring Break and gradually lured into the criminal lifestyle, Spring Breakers does have a few undeniable strengths doing for it. For one thing, it’s hard to avoid noting that despite the rampant and casual nudity of the film, it often resolutely avoids simple exploitation: picking four young women as protagonists with their own agendas partially frees the film from the girls-gone-wild male gaze, and does much to increase the viewer’s uneasiness at the increasingly violent onscreen antics. Spring Breakers is designed to unsettle and play as societal horror, the excesses of the generation heralding an era of unbridled boozed-up nihilism. Scratch a normal college student, seems to suggest Korine, and a crazed criminal will come out, guns blazing. Alarmism at its finest, but the film does manage to become an impressionistic mash-up of ominous flash-forwards, sampled flashbacks and dissonant montages. From the first scene (featuring a pitch-perfect use of Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”, which makes sense given how Skrillex helped score the film), the film makes viewers bounces between the light and dark sides of hedonism, eventually scoring a crime spree to an acappella rendition of Britney Spears’s “Baby, One More Time” before juxtaposing a shootout with innocent flashback narration. Suffice to say that the usual fans of Vanessa Hugens, Selena Gomez and James Franco may be in for a bit of a shock –Franco, in particular, turns in a distinctive performance as a top-dog gangster. None of it is especially easy to watch, but the effect is more powerful than expected. Audiences with weak constitutions may not make it to the end –even seasoned viewers may be tempted to reach for the fast-forward button once in a while. Suffice to say that it’s a memorable viewing experience, even though its merits may be obscured by a lot of surface flash.

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