Spring Breakers was primed from the beginning to be a disaster. It was the first film to really change the career trajectories of Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, showing them trying to shed their Disney image of being good-girls on wholesome shows. Every still of them we saw they were clad in skimpy bikinis and were sexualized like we hadn’t seen them particularly before. James Franco was to play a stereotypical “white-guy” rapper with cornrows, grills in his teeth with money to spend and girls to exploit. And, hey, it’s also set during spring break, so get ready for plenty of partying, drugs, alcohol and naked girls. We indeed get all this, but it’s not the outright mess that it seemed destined to be. It has its problems, but navigates its way through the material, in not exactly a fresh way, but in an admirable attempt.
See, it’s not a comedy, as much as on the outset it is. With me not watching movie trailers anymore (except when I’m forced to in theatres), I had no clue, but that’s why I love coming in cold to films, the unexpected of what you get. Sure, it’s funny in parts, but Harmony Korine is definitely aiming at something more meaningful and worthwhile. Hudgens, Gomez and crew are some out-going college girls who of course are looking forward to spending some “quality” time during spring break. Of course, being college girls, they don’t have enough funds to procure said trip to Florida, so sans Gomez they rob a chicken restaurant….. Yeah, I don’t know either. They make it there, have a grand old-time partying it up, until they’re thrown in jail only to be rescued by the bail of James Franco’s “Alien” rapper character. The girls further descend into this world of drugs, money, alcohol and violence. Corrupted by who? Themselves, media, their surroundings, party culture? That’s what Korine is trying to make a social play at, but it falls by the wayside.
I quite enjoyed how serious the film took itself in and of the ridiculousness of rapper mafioso’s and scantily clad women partying one minute and sticking up people for money the next, and then executing a fleet of henchman like it’s the final level of a video game. See, Korine wants to have both sides of the coin, he loves showing the classic “spring break” scenes of topless girls partying, doing drugs, drinking, getting in to trouble, and just generally being loss with their moral that of course every girl does on spring break. But, he also wants to make a commentary on what these activities and pursuits can do to a person, how it changes you and can corrupt you from what you once were. I don’t know if it ever works, though, see the girls were robbing a restaurant with guns before they even came to Florida, and the motivation to do that came out of nowhere. Sure, these girls take charge and become queens of their domain, and of course just because they hang around in bikini’s doesn’t make them less intelligent, but often Kormine’s scope and lens of the film skews it this way. Even so largely as to single out Selena Gomez’s character as the “good” one and have her leave. These girls aren’t trapped in Florida, they can leave at any time, so indeed two out of the four leave, keeping Hudgens and Ashley Benson’s characters to fulfill the sex-fueled and violence laden final scenes.
Maybe, on the one side, the Gomez and Rachel Korine’s characters are the good and moral ones who get out, representing the realizations of what these activities and “party” culture can do to you, and on the other side, is Hudgens and Benson who willingly fall deeper into the hole they created and succumb to their already burgeoning lusts for violence and sex. I just thought about that while writing this, and it’s an interesting tact, but I don’t know if the film is ever really that convinced. Korine’s wants to have his cake and eat it too, exploitation, with some attempted social commentary, but the exploiting still always seems like the main thing Korine has on his mind. It is credit to the film, that I had expected it to just be some throwaway dumb psuedo-comedy, but instead its got me thinking a lot about its intents and skills in actually seeing them through. I could appreciate a viewing against mine, but as far as I can see the classic tenants of sex, drugs, and partying seem to greatly overweight the interest Harmony Korine has in actually saying something meaningful and truthful about it.