Anyone who knows me well enough wouldn’t be too surprised to find myself admitting why I may be one of the only people who can say she actually liked Spring Breakers. As indie-film artist Harmony Korine sought to bring his material more commercial attention after a few failed flicks, he admits in an interview with Rolling Stone, “I want to do the most radical work, but put it out in the most commercial way.” With the use of ex-Disney starlets, he was sure to grab both the attention of those starlets’ fan pools and critics, plunging them into “all-grown-up” roles. And, with all the boobies and butts and drugs and money involved in the film, he was sure to stir some speculative eyes and controversy through plunging these supposedly-innocent girls into the corrupt world of drugs and money–almost sexploiting them–yet he also provides a fantasy-driven film that finds itself mocking that world rather than glorifying it.
As the film opens itself to an array of nude boobies and butts played along to the club-ridden dance anthem of Skrillex, Korine brings us just what we all were expecting from this film. Right In Front Of Your Face. Just as modern capitalism is run ridiculously well from objectifying women and making them into objects of lust and love, Korine gives us just what we were looking for, and probably whatever guilty reason we found ourselves wanting to watch this film, right at the opening sequence. With the lack of any build-up or preparation for this sequence, we are immediately plunged into a world of discomfort and uncomfortable viewing. But, viewers can get the sense that Korine isn’t exactly inspiring us to feel pleasure from watching the girls engage in these sequences; rather, Korine makes their violent crime spree almost seem like a gleeful adventure. Young girls running around in bikinis and shooting guns? As we see scenes of the ex-Disney starlets smoking bongs, lighting cigarettes, drinking on-end, sniffing up crack and complaining about how much they want to get out for Spring Break and go “wild,” we can’t help but cringe at the horrifying look it almost takes on today’s youth.
The feel of this film almost feels like a drug-experience rather than a narrative, as the use of constant darkness, neon lights, and cut-editing creates the haunting tone in which we read the film. Also, Korine’s charisma in this film comes from his obscure storytelling and rather simple telling through the scenes, as we pick up on character constructs from the actions and behaviors we see them engage in. With absolutely no description or dialogue ever really told, Korine lets the girls go wild drawing naughty pictures, performing crude gestures, and running around like nonsensical teenage girls without us viewers having a clue as to why the heck they are acting the way they are. The only thing we viewers can infer is that these girls just want to be the teenage girls they are–rebellious, free-spirited, and fun-loving. As party-crazed as they may or may not be, that desire is seen through the actions and temptations they give into, as we see even the sweet Faith (Selena Gomez) wanting to have a little fun–perhaps because she’s not finding “who she is” or having that “realization” from singing songs and praying with her God-crazy prayer group. (After all, isn’t it said that you find yourself when you’re in the most foreign of places?)
The debauchery in this film is absolutely timeless. Alien (James Franco) is sleazy as heck as he made me feel so darn uncomfortable sitting in my own seat. As the girls are running around and almost always surrounded by men, we’re provided a tale that can be both liberating and bothersome. The girl-power camaraderie we see in their heists can almost be feminist, as we’re taken on a joy ride of girls taking power and initiative in a world that tends to put ladies in the backseat; however, the demoralizing aspect of women is blatantly seen through Alien’s sleazy attraction to the girls, sharing threesomes and basically buying them as his own prostitutes (which is then beautifully back-lashed as this film never puts the girls in a state of weakness, frailty, or submission–rather, all their consequences happen by their own choice, as the girls are always liberated with their decision-making, which is, in a way, empowering).
As Korine revealed to Rolling Stone, “People always say, ‘Your films lack morality.’ But in the end I know my heart is pure. It was important to me the girls felt that too. That in the end the film was on the side of righteousness.”
As Britney Spears’ “Everytime” begins to play at an emotional height in the film, we receive a tantalizing vision of what this movie’s all about. That, in the violence that occurs, there’s a weakness that follows–in all acts of wrongdoing, comes a suffering–and possibly, in each pure moment, it is ridden with guilt.
Perhaps it will do us some good to not look at this film for its face-value, but rather, the dark undertone Korine presents us with. Sometimes, it’s okay to laugh at the ridiculousness of events in this film, with Alien’s crazed obsession with his guns and toys and money and crib, yet, remember that Korine himself states: “My dream has always been to infiltrate the mainstream. I always thought that was the way to do some serious damage.” And damage he may have done, there’s just no film like this out there.
And might I add, that scene with James Franco and Selena almost made me cry! I felt so uncomfortable watching that scene, as I could feel the discomfort and fear and almost cry with Selena. I was a bit skeptical as to why she decided to join in on this film, but I’m actually glad she was there. Her natural self fit the role, and darnit–if there’s any I could relate to in that movie, it was her. That discomfort was painful to watch but relieving in a way as well. It made the experience all the more real.