The Monocle – Spring Breakers

Directed by: Harmony Korine
Written by: Harmony Korine
Released: March 22nd, 2013
Theatre watched at: Century 8, North Hollywood

Let’s get it out of the way…because it’s like an elephant, it’s in the room, and now it’s taking a sh*t–we have to talk about it. The true appeal of Spring Breakers is seeing Disney star, good girl Selena Gomez in a bikini, taking bong hits, downing booze, and just praying she’ll flash her “Beibers” or at least settle for some side-Beibs (and Vanessa, I didn’t forget you, but come on, old territory for you). I’ll reveal it all now, Selena does NOT bare her anythings in the film, not even close, but fortunately Vanessa does for a short bit, so there you go perverts.  The film follows four childhood friends Brit, Faith, Candy, and Cotty (Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Rachel Korine, respectively) who are in dire need to escape their painfully redundant, college lives and party hard for spring break. After successfully robbing a diner to satisfy adequate funds for a trip, they travel to Florida where they are sucked into the allure of the wild, exotic, and care-free world that is “partying like there is no freagin’ tomorrow.” Of course, nothing lasts forever, and the moment their paradise illusion is disrupted by matters of the law, drug-dealing, and gang wars, each of the girls slowly realize there is no escaping “real-life”…it’s about what life you feel most comfortable trapped in.

For a film that is stuffed to the brim with babes, bare boobs, fornication and bad consciences, (high five to those who get the Rorschach reference) as well as an absolutely outstanding, gusto performance from James Franco, Spring Breakers left me quite indifferent due to its unrealized agenda. By the end of it all I just didn’t know what I cared about, if I cared about anything at all, or if director Harmony Korine wanted me to care about anything at all. At first exposure we are presented with these self-absorbed girls who are as horny and money hungry as Donald Trump on vacation. With the exception of Gomez’s character Faith, who we learn has a Christian background, the remaining three girls have very little to distinguish them from each other, and are thus reduced to interchangeable vessels that exemplify what seems to be the “typical” girls-gone-wild woman: welcoming of danger, addicted drugs/sex, apathetic to opinion, and socially confused. With this information in the chamber, expecting some dynamic character arcs seemed reasonable, but it is clear by the time that when two of the girls decide to go home only after they’ve either been sexually threatened or shot in the arm, and they are never mentioned or seen in the film again, that this is not a character study. So, what we have here are four main characters who turn out to be nothing more than stupid people who have to “see it to believe it” before making a smart decision.

Well if not for its unusual characters, the films visual style and constant bombardment of spring breakers partying, a lot of times interceding during moments of reflection for our characters, must warrant a social critique. The cinematography is documentary-like, with the camera always a part of the action but as an observer, distant but curious, Korine keeps us from becoming to intimate and allowing us to try and see the whole picture. I mean for goodness sakes right from the get go Korine blatantly introduces spring break culture via a dub step slow motion music video. There are a few more visually stylistic moments like this throughout the film that are very trippy, clearly using post-effects, that accent the sort of chaos and high ever so present in this environment. It’s clear he wants us to really take this culture all in, so why do I feel as if I learned nothing more than what’s on the surface yet again? Because, aside from the film taking a major narrative shift once the girls are introduced to James Franco’s character Alien, a drug dealer, and everything suddenly takes on a grounded crime film, Korine never builds on any themes further than what we can’t already deduce. Yes, okay, spring break is clearly a time when breakers, who want to get a way from it all, throw away inhibitions and deal with self-reflective qualities such freedom and power, it gets out of hand sometimes and they get more than they bargained for…so what? What else? Like any good social analysis, it has to have a sense of progression, a hidden agenda or resolution, but since the girls seem to just ride a bus back home once they’ve realized this world isn’t for them, all hopes for further review close and die. Suddenly, Korine’s choice of visuals are diminished for the purpose of style, leaving this film feeling extremely empty, almost abandoned.

The one true gem of it all is James Franco as the rapper/drug dealer impeccably named Alien (I like to think they’re poking fun of Lil’ Wayne here). Do I really need to say more? It’s James Franco as a white, grill wearing, cornrowing, gangsta, drug dealer! You know he’s just been waiting to play this role for a long time, and it really shows; he has a lot of fun with it and so does the audience. Alien is quirky, happy-go-lucky, poetic and unusually suave; you can tell he’s all-around a harmless person, just someone who grew up on the other side of the tracks and made do with the cards he was given, in many ways he’s probably going to the the character you invest in the most. My favorite scene of the entire film is when Alien goes on a boasting rant about his “luxurious” material possessions and how proud he is of himself that he has them. It’s a rant that is quite poetic, and I refer to is as a rant because of the slight sarcastic undertone he delivers under his enthusiasm, saying over and over “Look at all the sh*t I have! Just look at all the sh*t I have!” referring to the things such as his random assortment of firearms and combat weapons to his multicolored name brand underwear.

Although Spring Breakers is visually intriguing and offers a standout performance from James Franco, it ultimately suffers heavily from a lack of truly inspired substance and for doing nothing more with its rich subject matter than using it as flare for compensation.


Bow Tie Score - 2.5