‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Harmony Korine’s Most Accessible Movie Entertains and Enlightens [SXSW 2013]
Posted on Sunday, March 17th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
Oddly enough, everything you need to know about Spring Breakers is represented by its two credited music composers: Cliff Martinez and Skrillex. Martinez is a veteran, a regular Steven Soderbergh collaborator who recently did the score to Drive. He’s known for pulsing, tense, dramatic scores. Skrillex is the world’s best known dubstep DJ, known for grimy, catchy party anthems infused with a certain soul and savagery. Those two sounds, traditional and modern, are Spring Breakers in a nutshell. It’s a wild, entertaining and vibrant movie with an underbelly of tension and purpose.
At times Spring Breakers pops with energy and excitement. It then dives into much more intense drama. The tones, like those of the score, sometimes clash. But often the oddfellows mesh beautifully, making us question why this film is the way it is: a fever dream of drugs, sex and violence. The answer brings to light some tough questions about society’s core beliefs.
Written and directed by Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers stars Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine as four college girls who’ll do anything to get out of their mundane lives for a few days. They’re dying to head to Florida for spring break. To them, spring break is their opportunity to be something different. Something better. Yet the method by which they get there already sets them on the wrong path.
That path then intersects with Alien, memorably portrayed by James Franco. He’s a sleazy, excess-driven gangster rapper who takes the girls under his wing. Through Alien, we begin to see each girl’s true natures, most of which are very dark. All the while, Korine tells the story with an almost stunning confidence. The narrative moves forward but is infused with repetition, flashbacks and flash forwards, are of which happen constantly. It’s almost as if you’re watching a hallucination of these events, with the important bits layered on top to point at the film’s true meaning.
The “true meaning” is certainly something that’ll be debated for some time to come, largely because Korine has made a thinking person’s film with such a glossy fun cover. He’s tricking us into thinking. On the surface, everything about Spring Breakers is colorful, crazy and funny. It glorifies excess by flaunting scantily clad co-eds who are drinking, doing drugs, sporting expensive clothes and jewelry, driving fast cars, everything society has told us is “cool.” Alien even calls Spring Break “the American dream.” But at what cost? As we’re enjoying the frivolous and hilarious nature of what we’re seeing, the characters slowly begin to change. For some, this is a frightening thing. For others, it’s uplifting. But ultimately what it says about popular culture is uncomfortable. Is it worth sinking to certain depths to put on a facade of cool? Korine’s film shows “Yes,” but says “No.”
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is intense, fun and thought-provoking. It’s one of those movies we’ll all be talking about for a long time.
/Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10