Lionsgate // 2013 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // July 18th, 2013
Good girls gone bad.
There is very little that should work about Spring Breakers, an exploitation/satire/art film starring a couple of Disney Channel actresses and directed by the guy who made Trash Humpers. So how did it end up as one of the year's best movies?
Four girls (Ashley Benson, Pretty Little Liars; Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical; Selena Gomez, Wizards of Waverly Place; Rachel Korine, wife of writer/director Harmony Korine) want to head down to Daytona Beach for spring break but don't have the money to go. Easy solution! Pull off a couple of robberies to fund their party. Unfortunately, the spring break celebration lands them in a little bit of trouble. Enter Alien (James Franco, Spider-Man), a rapper/DJ/low-level gangster looking to make a name for himself and live his life as an endless spring break. Pink ski masks and Britney Spears songs factor in to what happens next.
What exactly is Spring Breakers? Is it a lament for wasted youth? A satire of entitlement culture? A celebration of how much fun it is to go down to Florida and party for a week? A critique of excess? A statement of female empowerment? About MTV culture?
The answer is: all of the above.
Spring Breakers is a kind of cinematic inkblot test, able to be read many different ways and supporting those interpretations. That's not because writer/director Harmony Korine (making what has to be his most "commercial" movie to date) has made a movie that's obtuse or inaccessible. It's because he really means all of these things. Yes, he is being critical of a certain generation that feels like they should be able to do what they want to do because they want to do it; the scenes in which the girls rationalize robbery as a means of funding their vacation is chilling in its matter-of-fact moral blankness. But Korine is also clearly kind of in love with the spring break "culture" -- the partying, the loud music, the round-the-clock pursuit of hedonistic fun. Yes, Spring Breakers argues, these girls are awful for wanting what they want. But then it counters with "Can you blame them?"
While the performances of the four main girls are unremarkable -- they are placeholders, cast more for their real-life baggage than for their acting abilities -- there is one performance in Spring Breakers that alone makes the movie worth seeing: James Franco's turn as Alien, the girls' benefactor and wannabe gangster. Taking a page from the Brad Pitt school of acting, Franco has time and again proven to be a much more compelling character actor than a leading man (for evidence, compare his work here to his lead performance in Oz The Great and Powerful, which played theaters at the same time as this). With Alien, Franco gives his all-time best character performance: he is funny, scary, at times sweet, goofy and likable, despite the fact that he should be despicable in a lot of ways. There is a reason so many people who saw Spring Breakers made such a big deal of his "Look at my sh*t!!" scene, which is one of the best in the film both for Franco's gleeful delivery and the way that it makes literal so much of the movie's material celebration. It is the stuff of legend.
Spring Breakers arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate. It is a gorgeous movie -- Korine has found beauty in the neon-soaked gaudiness of Florida beach culture -- and the 1080p HD transfer brings out all of the film's gorgeous tackiness. Colors are bold and vivid, detail is strong throughout and any graininess is totally intentional, giving the movie a low-budget feel and adding to the overall seediness. The lossless 5.1 audio track is even more aggressive. Few movies provided a better sonic experience than Spring Breakers in theaters, and Lionsgate has done a good job reproducing that for the home video presentation. The score, by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex, alternately rumbles and pounds and creates a dreamlike, hallucinatory vibe. The dialogue is always clear (many lines loop more than once; such is the structure of Korine's film) but almost doesn't need to be. This is a film that plays out through its images more than its words.
Korine sits down to deliver a feature-length commentary track for the film, and while it's completely adequate, I'd be lying if I said it was a little bit of a letdown. It's too surface-level to really work as a deep examination of the movie's themes, with Korine coming off as a little wacky but not nearly wacky enough. I kept hoping he would be one extreme or the other, but Korine straddles the line of normalcy. Also included is a three-part "making of" documentary totaling around 20 minutes that's mostly standard stuff, though with just enough art and weirdness in it (it's Harmony Korine, after all) to be more interesting that the usual fluff piece. A few more featurettes (or varying degrees of truth) covering the movie's music, Daytona Beach location and the twin co-stars who act as Franco's crew are also on hand. A single deleted scene, in which the girls ask to see a stranger's penis, is included, as is an outtake reel consisting of little excised pieces and some bloopers, but none of it particularly compelling. Rounding out the bonus features on the disc are a couple of theatrical trailers and TV spots.
The disc also contains a digital copy. Now you will never be without Spring Breakers.
Spring Breakers faces an uphill battle. The arthouse audience might dismiss a movie about Disney tweeners in bikinis, while the audience for a movie about Disney tweeners in bikinis might not be looking for art. The good news is that Spring Breakers should satisfy both crowds. It's a fascinating, hypnotic, special movie, worth seeing if only for Franco's performance and Korine's assured direction. None of it should work and all of it does.
Spring break. Spring break forever.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Digital Copy
* UltraViolet Download
* Official Site
* Facebook Page