The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
Spring Breakers

Reviewed by Marta Wąsik.

Director Harmony Korine
Length 94 mins
Certificate 18 / R
Rating ********--
Filmmaking: 4  Personal enjoyment: 4

Photo from the article Harmony Korine's latest film, Spring Breakers, is an exhilarating ride through the dreams and nightmares of contemporary culture. It follows the story of four female friends: Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) who are eager to escape the boredom of their college lives and join in the drug-fuelled, sexed up, MTV dream of the perfect holiday. Their skimpy bikinis packed, the girls are all ready to hit the road as they realise there is a something standing between them and the time of their lives: they are short of cash. Desperate times call for desperate measures so, armed with hammers and squirt guns, the ladies rob a fast-food chain. No biggie. In fact, they realise, it was rather fun. A bit like smoking pot and doing hand stands in their accommodation corridors, and far more exciting than singing praise to Jesus in prayer meetings, surely? Nothing can compare with the fun of the Florida beach party. So much so that the girls wish that it could last forever. What if it did? Well, why not?

The casting of "Disney girls" - actresses recognised for their association with Disney branded shows for adolescents - relies on their overdetermination, but it is not a simple exploitation of their personas. Sure, they behave recklessly, get wasted and whatnot (and yes, we do see their breasts), but the film is after something more than shock value. Paradoxically, it is more interested in innocence and the meaning of the term in a setting where it seems to be so utterly out of place. This is especially clear with the unexpected introduction of Britney Spears' music in what is perhaps the most unequivocally articulate moment of the film. Having gone from a provocative ponytailed schoolgirl to a complete physical and emotional wreck, Britney embodies what awaits the girls on the other side of the spring break. That, or maybe babies, boredom and Jesus. Honestly, why would anyone go back?

James Franco is thrilling as the grotesque and sentimental rapper Alien who takes the girls under his wing. He is perfectly cast for the part, or perhaps rather, the role fits seamlessly into Franco's persona. His portrayals are so idiosyncratic that it seems at times his choices are fuelled by the sheer weirdness of the part he is being offered. But Franco embodies them with an honesty, giving depth and likability to that which otherwise would be a purely vacuous sign. Alien is even more innocent than the girls themselves, and equally as enamoured with the possibly of endlessly delaying - even denying - reality. With guns hung over his bed, cash flying all around the house, and Scarface on repeat, he embodies the ambivalent longing at the heart of the film: to lose oneself in the moment and then to have that moment last forever. But of course the whole point of the moment is that it is transitory. There are consequences when the guns are no longer just filled with water.

Spring Breakers seamlessly blends innocence with delinquency, with insightful political criticism running alongside what seems at times to be unreflective exploitation. With its subtle camerawork, garish neon colour palette, and pulsating soundtrack, it simultaneously seduces and assaults the viewers. It’s never quite clear if this is the best trip of one’s life or the worst. One thing is certain: live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.

This review was published on April 16, 2013.

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