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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

'SPRING BREAKERS' is Not the Daring or Provocative Film It Pretends to Be [REVIEW]

Many people might tell you that SPRING BREAKERS is a beautifully nuanced film, one which utilizes the rowdy vacation setting as merely a backdrop. Others may say that it's refreshing to see Disney starlets Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez in more mature, risqué roles.They may even go as far as to say that the movie subtly showcases a deeper meaning of life, deviance, and ethereality.

But I'm going to call this movie what it really is: just another way to see young womens's boobs and behinds splattered across the screen in a gratuitous nature that offers nothing to the story (or lack thereof). This is yet another careless example of women delivering so-called "daring" performances by shedding their clothes (an issue previously discussed in an earlier post). And this time, Disney veterans, perhaps far too eager to discard their squeaky clean images, eagerly jump to the bait.

Don't get it twisted, folks. This movie is outrageous, eye-roll worthy, and simply deplorable.

The beginning of the film mesmerizes you with its heart-thumping score, along with the naked buttocks and bosoms splashed across the screen, drenched with alcohol and beach water. The camera is peering so deep inside every girl's crotch that you have no choice but to feel dirty. As you struggle to adjust your eyes to the barenaked bodies (mostly women's; the men don't strip beyond their swim  trunks, of course), you realize that after a few minutes you've been watching either a "Girl Gone Wild" video or just your typical music video. And you can only hope it gets better than that.

But it doesn't.

Writer/director Harmony Korine (Kids) creates a so-called badass group of female characters (played by his wife Rachel Korine, Gomez, Hudgens and Ashley Benson), who rely on nothing but their string bikinis and blonde ambition to get them where they want to be. And where's that? Sprawled out on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, blasted out of their minds on beaches with hundreds of others, and making out with each other at seedy house parties as the handful of guys present shout encouragement.

These college students are so badly itching to take part in this debauchery that they are willing to do anything to abandon their desperately mundane town to get there. Which means holding up a diner at fake gun point, and robbing all the workers and customers blind for the travel money.

Wait, what? I understand that the spring break ritual is a student's right of passage, so to speak, one in which they'd feel left out if they for whatever reason can't participate. But stretching it to the point that the desire of a beach vacation takes precedence over good old-fashioned sanity seems hilariously contrived.

But it works, and the girls are deliriously ecstatic. Once they arrive on the sandy dunes, they are quickly seduced by the thrill of sex, drugs and alcohol that comes along with this annual getaway. However, despite Korine's tedious efforts to steer the audience away from the movie's gratuitous swag by employing eerie reflections from each girl (who phone home detailing bombastic experiences to their unsuspecting guardians back at home; one of them even calls this vacation "spiritual"), the film continued to hobble along on a highway to nowhere. It became clear here that the director decided to mask a hopelessly thin script with hip-hop tunes, neon visuals and sexual shock value (which is never actually shocking).

It started to regain its course with the introduction of Alien (James Franco), a gold-toothed rapper/criminal who's got access to way more than he can handle, including an impressive stash of weapons. He gets the girls out of a pinch, and therefore appoints himself their delinquent savior, offering them free room and board in exchange for watching him get off on his own depravities and eventually accompanying his downfall. The best thing about Franco's performance is that it borders on hilarity and hopelessness, despite how it's written. But, sadly, the character becomes a cop-out and never reaches its potential to embody the themes of the movie.

The semi-poignant moments are further demolished by bad dialogue and caricature-like portrayals. It can be said that three of the lead actresses, Hudgens, Korine and Benson, who play the wildest of the crew, at least commit to the roles. Though they're probably hoping this is a mere jumping off point in their careers for more grown-up roles. Little do they know that SPRING BREAKERS is simply a R-rated version of Baywatch.

However, Gomez is just uncomfortable to watch in the role. She has the face of a cherubic 12-year-old, which does at least lend itself to her church girl gone awry character, Faith, but she not only doesn't fit in with her untamed posse but she doesn't even seem to want to be there (even before things really hit the fan for the girls in the latter half of the movie). She's awkward in the role, and you just can't wait for her to leave the screen. It's that painful to endure, and borderline perverse in nature.

From it's pointless script, sloppy acting and dreadful direction, SPRING BREAKERS is not nearly as profound as it pretends to be. If Korine's critically-acclaimed screenplay for Kids is any proof, it's probably best that he either direct or write a project, not do both at once.

Save yourself the agony of watching this movie and just dust off your old "Girls Gone Wild" VHS tapes instead. They're likely to omit the riff-raff in this movie and cut right to the chase.

Rating: F+

SPRING BREAKERS hits theaters in New York and Los Angeles March 15th. It opens nationwide on March 22nd.


Courtney said...

Good review! I expect these will be my thoughts as well. The cast of girls looks awkward to begin with, and to note that it's an empty plot makes matters worse! The whole bikini pictures plastered everywhere months ago initially made me question what was going on in this film...maybe with a different cast??? No clue. Seems like a big waste.

Brittani Burnham said...

This is exactly how I thought Spring Breakers would be like.

Daniel said...

Sounds like Korine decided he’d try to shock first and foremost and fail badly on various counts. The contrived characters are just inexcusable, a shame Franco’s character wasn’t expanded because he sounded like the most interesting of the bunch.

Anonymous said...

"From it's pointless script, sloppy acting and dreadful direction, SPRING BREAKERS is not nearly as profound as it pretends to be.

Save yourself the agony of watching this movie and just dust off your old "Girls Gone Wild" VHS tapes instead. They're likely to omit the riff-raff in this movie and cut right to the chase."

That is my exact conclusion. Enough said.

Dan O. said...

What Korine talks about here, and how he goes about his business is worth a watch. The movie may not be great, but it sure as hell is very interesting in where it goes, how, and why. Good review Candice.

Kevyn Knox said...

Nice review, but I must say I am of the complete opposite camp here. I would call Spring Breakers Korine's best film yet, and one of the better films of the still young 2013. The way Korine styles his film, with repetitive motion, makes one think of Godard in his hey day. The way Korine oozes his story across the screen reminds one of Cassavetes or Fassbinder in their respective hey days. Simply put, the film is thoroughly satisfying, and utterly enthralling. I am going to go out on a limb here, and say you don't agree with that assessment. Ah well, we can't (and shouldn't) agree on everything.

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