April 24, 2013

Review: 'Spring Breakers' and the American Dream

Filmmaker Harmony Korine has crafted a darkly comic yet cotton candy, MTV style commentary on popular culture with Spring Breakers. It both adheres to a loose, art film and montage-like structure while maintaining an exuberant, party attitude and hyperrealistic, music video feel. It's an aggressively violent, disturbing film told through the lens of four bored, lost, entitled college girls.

Said girls, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine breaking away from their wholesome Disney princess personas, explore their own version of the American dream with a reckless journey to St. Petersburg, Florida to escape their menial lives. To achieve this, they act out a violent series of crimes. Gomez is the only one given a character arc or a distinguishable personality as Faith, a good Christian girl trying to find herself.

James Franco steals the picture with an inspired performance of a ridiculous drug dealer who spouts off these wildly hysterical yet oddly deep monologues about American life. Everything he says is so earnestly disturbing and inspiring in a white trash kind of way. Franco goes for a strange take on the charismatic leader character, committing fully.

While the camera lingers on all the sex, nudity, debauchery, Korine doesn't shy from the harsh sides of this lifestyle. Parts of the film are dirty and uncomfortable, wrapped in this glossy, pink, super sweet veneer. Korine even manages to make Britney Spears' music reverent and meaningul. He fetishizes the debauchery of spring break with slow motion shots of naked teens dancing and prancing. It's told beautifully while expressing all the depraved, loathsome material he presents.

Spring Breakers has been consistently compared to a "fever dream" and easy to see why. It's a strange, superficial film that both glorifies and comments on a culture of excess. There's both mainstream appeal in its conception but is mostly an off putting, dark tale about bored, lost souls losing their way. All this is a result of boredom. We need the sex, drugs, alcohol, and depravity to escape from the prison of everyday life. Everything is a distraction from making us feel and seeing what life really is.

More | YVArcade / NPR

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