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Spring Breakers Review: "Girls Gone Wild" As Directed by Terrence Malick on Bath Salts

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | March 15, 2013 | Comments ()


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Thanks to a cast that includes James Franco and Disney princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, plus the promise of gratuitous nudity, excessive drug use, and violence, Spring Breakers is expected to open in limited theaters with a planned nationwide expansion designed to capitalize on a demographic poised for their own spring breaks.

It's going to implode the second it reaches mainstream multiplex audiences.

Spring Breakers is everything you've come to expect from Harmony Korine (Gummo, Trash Humpers) only with bigger stars and on a much larger scale: It's exhilarating, frustrating, f*cked up, weird, interesting, bizarre, and boring all at the same time. But it's a movie that belongs at a film festival or in small independent theaters in large metropolitain areas, where men with beards and ill-fitting jeans and women with horn-rimmed glasses can mull it over afterwards, chew on the themes and ideas, and ultimately arrive at a pretentious conclusion that says as much about how irritatingly arrogant they are as it does about the white-trash hedonism of the film.

What's for sure is that it does not belong in a multiplex. Should a teenage Wizards of Waverly Place or High School Musical fan accidentally stumble into Spring Breakers screening, it would scar her for f*cking life. PTA moms would riot, multiplex managers would be choked to death by soccer-mom bobs, and hardcore Princess Protection Program tweeners would be relegated to straight jackets, mumbling over and over to themselves, "Mommy, why did that bad man fellate a pistol?"

It sounds thrilling, nasty and wildly entertaining, but it's not. Not really. The genius of Harmony Korine -- if you want to call it that -- is his ability to take something insanely provocative and transform it into something mundane. Yes, there is an insane amount of nudity -- bikini'd beach girls spend an inordinate amount of time drinking and grinding, while dudes snort blow off their boobs, simulate masturbation, and pour whiskey down their pie holes. It's an orgiastic circus of excess, but it's so much excess that within minutes, we've become desensitized to it. The nudity, the drug abuse, and the excess loses its power. Without a true linear narrative to latch on to, it all becomes an incredibly tedious series of boobs, legs, abs, and alcohol set to a (remarkably good) Skrillex soundtrack.

But what's Spring Breakers about? The short version is this: Four college women, bored with their trite existences, rob a diner, take a bus to a spring break destination, and enter into a weeklong bender of self-indulgent decadence, which leads to an arrest. Bailed out by Alien (James Franco) -- a white gangster with a grill, guns, and a God complex -- the four women become his willing sex slaves. Ultimately, however, the women literally turn the gun on Alien and mouth rape him with it, shifting the power balance back their way, and join Alien on his gangsta crusade.

But Spring Breakers is not really about that. It's not really about anything, and anyone that tries to extract some profound meaning out of Spring Breakers is either fucking with you or is a magniloquent windbag trying to impress with art-school pretension. I'm certain there's plenty of intended meaning in Spring Breakers, but the meaning is inside of Harmony Korine's head, where it f*king belongs.

In other words, it's a Korine film. They don't make any goddamn sense, but that's OK because they are challenging, hard to watch, and obstinately dull, except when they are shaken awake by a burst of gunfire or a coherent line of dialogue that snaps you out of your gluttonous stupor. What elevates Spring Breakers above most of his recent fare, however, is Franco, whose performance is so captivating, so perversely funny, so chock-full of white-trash witticism, and so ironically hilarious that it manages to pierce through Korine's torturous, debauched banality. Franco is almost too perfect, a combination of wanton douchebaggery and a total lack of self-awareness that can occasionally mirror Franco's own public life.

What's most interesting, perhaps, about Spring Breakers is that it's least likely to appeal to the people who the marketing is aimed: College nozzle dicks, future date-rapists, and other drunk and horny college kids who will go in under the misconception that this is a X-Rated MTV Spring Break special designed to titillate and lubricate. Spring Breakers will bore them silly because it's a chore to watch, no matter who you are. But on any superficial level where Spring Breakers is meant to be enjoyed, it's mostly a failure (save for Franco's performance). On a deeper level, however, it's more likely to frustrate than satisfy, but it will undoubtedly elicit a reaction, but like Hep C symptoms, reactions are not always something we want.

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