Saturday, 6 April 2013

Spring Breakers

Spring Break is to me what Taco Bell, 401K and Glee Club are. They are words and ‘things’ which exist in America but mean nothing on this side of the pond. Everything I know about the items, events and shops above, I’ve learned from the movies. I have literally no idea what a 401K is though. So the concept of the Spring Break is something that is not entirely alien to me but my only contact with it has come through the likes of Piranha 3D and Friends. Spring Breakers makes it out to be pretty much what I expected; an alcohol fuelled holiday for slags and nob heads to gyrate through while getting mashed off their tits to terrible music.

Spring Breakers is about four college girls, played by Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine who desperately want to go to Florida for Spring Break but can’t afford to. While Faith (Gomez) is at Church one night, the other three decide to mask up and rob a takeaway. With money to burn the foursome head down to sunnier climes where the bikinis are small and the booze keeps flowing. They soon find they get into trouble with the law though and get bailed out by a suspiciously friendly drug dealer turn rapper called Alien (James Franco).

You can probably already tell that I wasn’t a big fan of Spring Breakers. To me it felt like exploitation trash without meaning or purpose and was mostly an excuse to shoot jiggling girls without clothes on. Incidentally what is it with America and gyrating behinds? Money is thrown about while alcohol drips down exposed breasts and for forty minutes the film feels like one of those terrible rap videos with guns, money, girls, champagne and gold teeth all over the place. It was titillating but provided little else. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of titillation and I wasn’t averse to seeing the bikini clad girls but I want a film to be like that for a reason. For a long time Spring Breakers seemed to have no reason.

I think in the end the movie is turning the camera on the sort of girls who the film glares pornographically at. It seems to suggest that they are from a generation in which fame is desired and TV parades an endless stream of talentless, get rich quick, micro celebrities around as though they should be admired. A generation of people who want something for nothing are becoming adults and these girls certainly want something for nothing. After spending their money on weed and cocaine at college they decide to rob a restaurant instead of work or say “You know what, we don’t have the money, let’s forget it this year”. A second point the film makes (or at least it appeared to) is that movies and video games have informed young people’s behaviour. When nervously approaching the robbery, one of the girls keeps repeating, “Just pretend it’s a movie, pretend it’s a game”. The film’s editor also replays this sentence several times. This conservative message goes against the film’s visuals so I may just be picking on something which wasn’t in the Director’s mind. If intended as social commentary then the film at least has a place.

I’ve read that the Director made the film in part as an opportunity to chase the hedonistic pursuits he missed out on when of college age so maybe he did just want to stare at tits and bums. It should be noted here that one of the leads, Rachel Korine is Director Harmony Korine’s wife. Speaking of the actors, the central females are largely forgettable. Apart from a couple of scenes in which they have to act tough and be rough they just have to jump about, wiggle and dance. They’re not the most demanding of roles. I’ve only ever seen one of the actors before (Hudgens in the painfully dreadful Beastly) but Selena Gomez is a name that is known to me through her association with the popular lesbian Justin Beibers. Gomez is well cast as the more conservative member of the group. She seems younger and frailer and less streetwise than the others and plays her emotional scene well. The star though is James Franco who pulls out another wonderful performance from his unusually charted career. When I saw the trailer I had no idea he was even in the movie until the announcement of his name at the end. He looks totally different, hidden behind tattoos, dreadlocks and silver teeth and gives an outstanding performance. Each time I see him he goes up my list of favourite actors. Not only is he the stand-out actor but he is the stand-out thing in this movie. His character also adds to the social commentary of wanting something for nothing and doing anything to get it. His desire to accumulate ‘stuff’ and associating that to the American Dream also speaks loudly about the film’s message.

The film is presented in a generally linear manner but it skips forward occasionally, showing a few seconds of what is to come before carrying on as normal. If the plot was laid out in numbers from 1-10 it kind of goes 1,2,4,3,4,5,8,6,7,8,10,9,10. It’s an interesting idea and something which I hadn’t really seen done in quite the same way before. It was almost like the snippets were premonitions and they worked well as an idea. The cinematography captures the ‘hedonistic pursuits’ the Director talks about and gives Al Qaeda further reason to want to obliterate the west. The soundtrack is something that I hated. It was composed by someone called Skrillex and features the sort of brain numbing electronic robot music which is all over the place at the moment. I guess it is probably what the characters would listen to so that works but it’s not something I’d like to have to sit through again. The noises are peppered with gun fire at various intervals which give a sense of later carnage and also help to make the film feel more like a rap video.

Overall Spring Breakers has a small amount of social commentary which I enjoyed but it is buried inside a forty minute rap video and half an hour of Scarface meets Mean Girls. It titillates but rarely entertains and if like me you are old at heart then the constant shots of young people jiggling about, throwing money around and generally arsing about will infuriate you. James Franco is extraordinary in the film but it’s not enough to recommend it unless you want to see naked women and your internet/wife is broken.  

GFR 4/10


  • Emma Roberts was originally cast but dropped out after she was asked to put on weight for the role or because of scheduling conflicts depending upon which reports you read.
  • Vanessa Hudgens wore a wig for the role rather than dying her hair.
  • James Franco based his character on an underground Florida rapper called Dangeruss.           


  1. Good review Tom. It's a wild movie, but very smart in the way it talks about this generation we live in and how basically: our future is screwed.

    1. Good point. I'm sad to be (just about) in the same generation as these characters.

    2. Mean Girls Meets Scarface is something I'm surprised wasn't used on the poster. I love that.. Yeah I can understand your feeling about the score but it does fit within that world. I hate the music of O Brother Where Art Thou, but it does fit within that movie and I do like that movie

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