“Spring Breakers” – Review by Delon Villanueva

spring-breakers with Franco

What is Spring Breakers? That’s been the question on many people’s minds for a year, as we’ve gotten countless photos of scantily clad Disney Channel stars on the set of what seems to be a huge transition from their usual shtick. Though really, what is this movie and who is it for? Is it a raunchy R-rated comedy along the lines of Project X and other recent party movies, or are we missing something completely? Well, with a little research, you would learn that Spring Breakers is the latest film from controversial and divisive filmmaker, Harmony Korine, who is known for his usage of gritty, relentless social commentary. Now, I never knew who Harmony Korine was up until finding out about Spring Breakers, which says a lot about how underground this guy’s work is, but I knew exactly what I was getting into when watching this film. Yet, even with that said, I knew there was still a good chance I would end up hating it. My audience sure did (which I’ll get back to at the end of this review). Twitter users are destroying it, too. Luckily, critics have been much more generous, but Harmony Korine’s work still isn’t able to fully connect with everyone. So, what did I think of Spring Breakers? Well, I can think of many words to describe it: it’s grotesque, frustrating, and outlandish…and yet, for those reasons, I quite liked it.

The story of Spring Breakers (in case you were thinking it had none) is about four college girls named Candy, Brit, Cotty, and Faith (played by Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, and Selena Gomez, respectively), who have nothing else on their mind other than Spring Break. While Candy, Brit, and Cotty are these overly horny girls, Faith is an avid Christian who ends up tagging along with her best friends on a vacation of extreme debauchery a.k.a. exactly what you think Spring Break is. Though before their alcohol and sex-induced ventures can happen, the girls need money to afford it all, considering that they’re completely broke. So, Candy, Brit, and Cotty decide to rob a restaurant, but after one big crime, it all goes downhill from there. The girls manage to cause so much havoc during Spring Break that they end up in jail. Just when it seems like the four are absolutely doomed, Alien (James Franco, in one of his best works), a rapper who recognizes them from a party, bails them out. The girls think they’re saved at this point, but Alien sucks them into his own life; a life much darker than what they’ve already experienced throughout Spring Break.

Now, even my description of this movie doesn’t really scratch the surface of how dirty and bizarre Spring Breakers is. Although this is technically Harmony Korine’s most mainstream movie yet, it’s still a hard film to fully take in. Spring Breakers feels nauseating, repetitive, and definitely boring at some parts, but is Korine trying to make a point here about Spring Break? He makes a lot of risky decisions in this movie that don’t always work, including his frequent use of the same dialogue and scenes and nonlinear montages, but when they do work, they’re very revealing in their depressingly honest messages. If this movie makes you completely disgusted with just the idea of Spring Break, Korine’s directing is a success. His writing, on the other hand, is a bit more problematic, specifically in the dialogue. If it weren’t for his directing, Korine’s screenplay would lose a lot of substance. It doesn’t feel very genuine and instead comes off as self-indulgent in its themes. The characters aren’t well developed, and even if they’re not supposed to, they still aren’t too interesting.

At least there’s some good stuff coming from the performances in this movie. Out of the girls, Selena Gomez is clearly the standout here. Her performance isn’t anything out of this world (she’s not even in the whole movie), but she does prove herself as an actress, including in the dramatic parts. The other three girls play their roles fine, although Vanessa Hudgens seems to be playing herself…anyways, moving on to the best performance of the movie, which is, of course, James Franco as Alien. It may seem easy to play a wannabe white rapper, but Franco performs it with a lot of authenticity. Yes, he’s absolutely insane as the moronic Alien, but he still portrays him with humanity, rather than just playing up the comedic aspect. There’s also a small supporting role by Gucci Mane. Not sure why I brought it up…this also makes for a good description of his presence in the movie.
S

o yes, I enjoyed Spring Breakers, but just not in the way many people wanted to. For an arthouse film, it has more problems than it should, but coming from a filmmaker like Harmony Korine, it’s expected to push some buttons, and for that, I can somewhat forgive it. Even with a rather superficial screenplay, Korine has a lot to say about our generation’s ideas of Spring Break, partying, drugs, sex, and the “American Dream.” There are plenty of other movies that do a better execution of it, but Spring Breakers is still worth watching for its striking visuals, intense soundtrack, and of course, plain ol’ curiosity. Now, here’s an important warning: in case I haven’t made it clear (which I’m sorry for), this is NOT your typical movie. If you consider yourself an average moviegoer and you plan to see this, do your best to have an open mind, but don’t be surprised if you still end up hating it. For film enthusiasts, this movie is definitely more for you, but you might end up hating it, anyways. I recommend seeing it just so you can join in on the conversation.

RATING: 7.5/10. This sounds a bit high for my score, but if it helps, the .5 basically comes from the fact that I saw something refreshingly original and very, very different for once. Again, this movie isn’t too successful, but I’m glad I saw it.

Now, here are my thoughts on the audience reactions, because yes, these need to be talked about. I was in a generally well-filled, medium-sized theater, but the age groups ranged mostly in high schoolers and college kids…and boy, did they hate this movie. It started off okay within the first thirty minutes or so, but once James Franco came in, the audience just wasn’t buying it. There was so much uncomfortable laughter. No one in the audience was sure why they were laughing: was Alien funny because the character was accurate to reality or that he was just a terrible character? And don’t even get me started on the ending. Oh, the ending! Without spoiling it, there was plenty of unintentional laughing, and by the time the credits began to roll, the audience screamed, “WHAT?!”, in unison. This isn’t a joke, this actually happened. Made my night actually. The walkouts, the confusion, THE OUTRAGE! It was great. Now, remember, this is NOT a movie for everyone, and a lot of these people were expecting something completely different and ended up being disappointed, which is fine. Though if you have not seen it yet and my review has convinced you to, do your best to see it with a crowd, which might be impossible now because the film’s word-of-mouth has been awful.

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