Spring Breakers | Harmony Korine | March 22, 2013
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a film starring Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine & Selena Gomez about four female college students who, dissatisfied with college life, travel to Florida for spring break. Now, with a description like that, I wasn’t expecting to take away much from this film. However, it ended up subverting all my expectations.
Warning: Spoilers to follow. If you’re trying to decide whether to watch it or not, just watch it — it’s good.
The film opens with three of the main characters — Brittany, Candy, Cotty (played by Benson, Hudgens & Korine; respectively) — sitting in a lecture; making lewd gestures out of boredom. It then cuts to them meeting up with Faith (Gomez) and trying to make plans for spring break but realizing they lack sufficient funds. Instead of abandoning or postponing their plans, the more rambunctious three psyche themselves up for and commit a robbery of a local diner with toy guns.
With no more obstacles, the four of them make their way to Florida and join their peers partying on the beach and in hotels in the area. However, after a few days, the girls get busted doing cocaine and are arrested for drug possession along with two twins. Faced with a few days jail time, the girls are bailed out by rapper, drug dealer and friend of the twins, Alien (Franco). Three of the girls are immediately enamored by Alien but Faith remains uncomfortable with him and his friends. She’s also disturbed by the other girls’ accounts of the robbery and how much they seemed to enjoy it. Despite Alien’s appeals, Faith ends up taking the bus home early.
With Faith gone, the real fun starts. Alien becomes increasingly close to Candy & Cotty; culminating in their holding him up at gunpoint, him performing fellatio on one of the guns and calling them his soulmates. One night, Alien takes them to a club owned by his former friend and current rival Big Arch (Gucci Maine). Arch warns Alien to stop selling drugs in his territory and stick to stealing from Spring Breakers.
Alien ignores Arch and arms the girls with pink ski masks and shotguns and together they rob a series of college students on spring break. While cruising around in Alien’s car, Arch threatens them and has his associate fire off some shots, one of which hits Cotty. The bullet shatters her fantasy and she decides to head home. She appeals to Brittany and Candy for them to join her; reminding them that everyone else has already left. However, for Brittany and Candy, there is no going back; this is their life now.
So Cotty leaves alone; leaving Brittany and Candy. Together with Alien, the three of them begin a polyamorous relationship and vow to avenge Cotty. They take a boat to Arch’s house but not long after setting foot on the pier Alien suffers a critical gunshot wound and dies. Brit and Candy continue on, eventually taking out every guard and Arch himself. In a flash forward, they are seen calling their parents and leaving voicemail messages about how they want to become better people and their masks are shown being thrown into the ocean.
In Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine makes use of several cinematographic features such as vivid neon colors, slow motion, and repetition. The vivid colors were perfect for punctuating the mood of various scenes with bright/happy scenes full of warm colors like pink, orange and yellow and dark scenes with deep greens, blues and purples. The extensive use of vivid color is easily my favorite aspect of the visuals. The slow motion and repetition are used for more dramatic effect, though. They serve to highlight the absurdity of spring break culture and the girls’ notions of debauchery as nirvana or self-exploration.
I also enjoyed the themes with which Spring Breakers plays. One such example is the incompatibility between a sheltered college student’s fantasy of being a drug dealer/gangster and the reality such as when Cotty gets shot. Another is the idea that each of us has darkness inside of us, which is exemplified in the scenes of the robbery and its retelling.
If there’s one problem with this movie it’s towards the ending when Alien gets shot dead within seconds of arriving. Killing off a main character at the beginning of an action scene is extremely anticlimactic and I was pretty upset the first time I saw it. On the whole though, Spring Breakers is visually stunning, funny and thought provoking, though not the easiest film to wrap your head around; making the film one with repeat play value.