Thursday, March 28, 2013

Man on Film: Spring Breakers

I'll open with the obligatory apology for lack of activity on the blog. Sorry.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, Spring Breakers was kind of a mess. It was ridiculous, James Franco was great, and there were plenty of moments to like*, but ultimately Harmony Korine's new film never really congeals into a cohesive vision, or at least not a cohesive film.

*If you're broken, like I am.

At various points throughout the film, it feels like Harmony Korine is attempting to make a point, to speak to the state that American society finds itself in. Somewhere in the mix, it felt as though he was going to highlight how the bacchanal that is the spring break phenomenon was metaphorically related to Rome at the fall of the Empire, in his own cold, idiosyncratic, exploitative way. There were moments where it felt like that point was going to be furthered, but that path was abandoned without warning.

There were times where it felt like Spring Breakers was trying to represent some sort of truth, a scripted riff on cinéma vérité-informed filmmaking, but then the moments of truth were undercut by moments of absurd, over-the-top acts by characters that tore you from associating the film with the reality that was being established moments earlier. The establishment of the girls' mundane college existence seemed to be an attempt to ground the film. Then they rob "the chicken shack" in a turn that seems to abruptly point the film in the direction of the good girls gone bad exploitation flick, only to go back to roughly half an hour of montage heavy spring breaking, with next-to-zero nudity from the principal cast (the only non-partial nudity is of Rachel Korine, guys and gals) no less. At many points in the film, it feels like Harmony Korine is going to take this film to the next level, advancing and peddling his bizarre brand of shock-and-awe exploitation masquerading as art-house fodder, but then he pulls back.

In the end, Spring Breakers never gets past feeling like a Harmony Korine film was smashed together with an after school special, party scenes from Girls Gone Wild series, and a salvaged but incomplete Michael Mann film. This makes for a particularly schizophrenic viewing experience, one made all the worse by the fact that only Franco and Gucci Mane distinguish themselves as capable actors in the film, while the girls (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Selena Gomez round out the cast) are simply present while the camera is rolling, hoping that these were the roles that freed them from the ranks of type-cast "good girls." If the film was just James Franco tickling the ivories and singing with the girls, it would have been great, but instead Korine's attempt at inserting himself into the crime drama game is a total clusterfuck. It is fun at times, but that fun is mitigated at least in part by the aimlessness of its auteur.


Shelby said...

Those chicks is hot

Anonymous said...

Nice review Josh. It's a film that keeps you alert, awake, and shifting in your seat for the duration of its run time, and whether or not that’s a good thing; is totally up to you. For me, it was good.

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