Spring Breakers (2012)

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Stylish, wandering film with a pretty thin, padded story that’s full of sex and drugs and half-naked girls parading around in skimpy outfits doing violent things for no particular reason. But it’s good, mainly thanks to said unique style, some pretty good performances, a string of really excellent, thought-provoking scenes, and a strong sense of order to the madness that hints of philosophical and emotional themes rarely explored in films of this nature, or films in general really. And James Franco doesn’t suck in this, surprisingly. What? Huh? No way. I know, I had the same reaction, but he’s actually not bad, not distractingly so at least. A first. You can barely even tell it’s him at times, thankfully. The man ought to “lose himself” in roles more often; maybe then he’d finally be a half decent actor.

Anyway, the story is kind of thin, as I mentioned before, at least initially. There’s nothing particularly unique or complex about it, though it becomes so as it goes on, at least on a sub-surface level. I was impressed by how utterly unconventional it is, though. Three act structure? Nah. Main character? To hell with that. And yet it works. Maybe not for everyone, but it did for me, crazy editing and repetition and weirdness and all, though some of it is a bit “much,” and the nudity/sex/general mayhem did start to become quite uncomfortable to watch after a while. I can’t remember the last time I felt so dirty watching a mainstream movie, actually. I get that it’s supposed to be intentionally off-putting, but there’s so much sex and nudity and partying and extreme close-ups of various body parts and all that, and it’s all shot in such a dark, wildly contrasting colorized manner, that it starts to wear on you after a while, regardless of how attractive some of the girls on display are. And so much alcohol, god. How are these people alive?

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To its credit, the film twists your expectations at nearly every level, starting with its basic premise. The trailers have you believe it’s about how **SPOILERS** a bunch of wild girls are sucked into a life of crime by this low-life Franco thug, when it’s really quite the opposite. I loved the scene where Franco is talking about how the girls should watch out for sharks in the water, implying to the audience that maybe he’s talking about himself, but he’s not the shark, the girls are, and he’s the one that should be cautious, not them, because they’re the ones that eventually lead to his downfall.**END SPOILERS** It’s a small, simple touch, but it’s brilliant, and the film is full of them. And the whole **SPOILERS** gun fellatio scene where Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson force the barrel of their guns down Franco’s throat was genius. Disturbing and uncomfortable, yes, but also brilliant in the way it manages to convey the relationship these girls have to violence and danger and, in turn, to Franco, who here represents a sort of funnel for them to finally be able to channel their blood lust.

I think the girls, namely, Hudgens and Benson, are supposed to be symbolic of the frustration and recklessness of youth: they are chaos personified. They want to strike out against the world, violently, just because they can, consequences be damned. While Franco is the opposite: he’s violent and dangerous, but he’s cold, rational, controlled. He has the means to inflict major damage, but he has no real reason to do so before meeting them, so he doesn’t. So when the two meet, all hell breaks loose, hence the escalating, often senseless violence in the last 30 minutes. Why did they rob all those people? It’s not like they needed the money. It’s just reckless violence, the thrill of the kill. It’s the girls using Franco to satisfy their desire for destruction, often at his expense. And yes the ending is crazy and implausible and would never happen in a million years, but it’s not supposed to be rational. It’s the girls finally satisfying their violent urges and deciding to “settle down,” hence the phone calls they each make to their families beforehand. Franco and the girls are **END SPOILERS** two halves of a very destructive whole, and it’s why the movie works as well as it does, thin plot and questionable editing and all. It’s a concept rarely explored in films, and I loved it.

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The film also has a handful of really great scenes which I won’t spoil here but I nonetheless want to talk about, damn it. Okay, fine, I’ll talk about two of my favorite: **SPOILERS** The pool three-way sex scene, arguably the only sexual scene in the film that didn’t make me feel sleazy and disgusting. It’s great, well shot, symbolic, and it’s actually quite sexy. Impossible to pull off, probably, but hot! I almost didn’t even mind that Franco was the recipient of said sex. And of course, my favorite scene, the one where an extremely drunk Rachel Korine mocks some guy who desperately wants to have sex with her, assuring him that he will never get the chance to despite her deliberate half naked state and her flirtatious teasing.  Never has the whole of male female relationships been illustrated in a more succinct and accurate matter than in that one scene. **END SPOILERS** Just brilliant.

Overall, there’s way more about this film that I’d like to talk about, but this review is long enough as it is. I enjoyed the heck out of this film. Sure, it’s not perfect: some of it is way too wandering, way too all over the place, the editing is wonky, the sex/partying is way too excessive, and moments feel padded to make up for the thin, often questionable plot. But the film is deep and well made, and explores themes and concepts you hardly see in even the most thoughtful of films, let alone mainstream fare like this. And the acting is pretty spot on, from Franco shockingly, yes, but from the girls too, especially Selena Gomez who really proves herself as an actress to watch. She has one scene with Franco which blew me away; it’s creepy and sad and disturbing, and both do such a great job selling it. Disney be damned, I say. I also loved how the film makes you think **SPOILERS** she’s the main character for the first 45 minutes or so. **END SPOILERS** Totally wasn’t expecting that, and it works somehow. Take that, traditional storytelling!

Worth watching, absolutely. Not for everyone, I imagine, but I loved it, warts and all. One of those rare films that’ll leave you thinking about it long after it’s over.

 

 

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  1. Good review Allen. While definitely not for everyone, I still think that everyone should see this film since it’s actually kind of important, especially for teens that are a bit above the usual Spring Break-idea of partying and living.

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