Spring Breakers (2012)

Nipples, mounds of flesh galore in this love letter to drunk and unruly teenagers spending their spring break in hedonistic Florida.


Harmony Korine

Harmony Korine

Director of Photography:
Benoît Debie

Running time: 90 minutes

If blond teenage girls watched more James Bond movies, they’d be able to better spot a bad guy. One giveaway, which the girls in Spring Breakers discounted, proving an unfortunate lack of wisdom: The bad guy often has metal teeth. In this particular film, he also sports corn rows, raps to pleasure-seeking spring breakers and makes his money the same way his idol Scarface did: with lots of guns and drugs.

This film is a very superficial depiction of slow-motion, sunlit hedonism, complete with an orgy of alcohol and the odd lesbo-curious moment between two or more drunk girls, usually writhing together to make the men around them even more horny. At the end of the film’s first act, the girls encounter Alien (James Franco), said rapper with the metal teeth, who has taken a liking to them and bails them out of jail when they are arrested at one of the city’s many locations where hedonism is taking place en masse.

The rest of the story, which luckily runs only 90 minutes in total, goes downhill fast, as some of the girls decide to head back home, having seen too much they can never unsee, while the survivors get lured in by Alien’s devious ways, his money and his power. However, unlike the mediocre drug film Savages, the characters that stick together show very little depth, and we skip from scene to scene with very little sense for the danger in which the girls find themselves.

This artifice afflicts the entire film, which plays more like a music video than anything else. There are numerous flash-forwards, which don’t really make us curious about the direction of the story as much as they disrupt our desire to have some grip on the sequence of events. At the beginning, the viewer may easily find herself wondering whether this will all turn out to be a dream, or perhaps just a side effect of all the liquor we see young people downing, often through a funnel.

It all starts in a small town in the South, where four girls with little money and fewer prospects desperately want to get out of this hell hole of a place and make it to spring break in Florida, where all the other kids their age have headed. The three blond girls (whom, by the end of the film, I still couldn’t tell apart) decide to rob a store with a sledgehammer and a squirt gun, and when they are successful they approach the naïve churchgoer Faith (Selena Gomez) and take her along for the ride to St. Petersburg, Florida.

A believer of the goodness in people and in things she cannot see, we hear Faith often speaking on the phone to her grandmother about what a spiritual place Florida is, how nice the people are and how she wished to come back the next year to spend spring break with her.

Naturally, Faith will be the first one to either get hurt or be wholly disillusioned by the experience, or both, but while director Harmony Korine could have used this for dramatic purposes, he dumps her character as soon as she has second thoughts about spending time with the smooth-talking Alien.

In the role of Faith, Gomez is better than expected, although she has too many annoying bits of dialogue that overtly explain how unhappy she is in her home town and why she had her heart set on spring break.

The film refuses to dig below the surface, and in the end the girls who end up enjoying the high life the most are the ones whose actions have them led them to next to no moral reflection.

Many sequences are stretched beyond their limits – most prominent among them the slow-motion opening scene that may or may not be a fantasy and another in which a drunk Alien accompanies himself on the piano as he contemplates his troubles.

But there are also two excellent scenes: the robbery, staged in a single take as the driver circles the building, so we can see everything happening through the windows; and a cleverly edited swimming pool scene in which the camera constantly dips below the water level but when it seems to rise up out of the water again there are no droplets on the lens. The film also delivers a constant sense of impending doom by adding the sounds of guns being loaded to the soundtrack at unexpected moments.

Spring Breakers is almost exactly what you would expect: a silly little movie about drunk girls who like to party and eventually party so hard they end up living with a drug lord. If you’re into boobs and many slowed-down close-ups of gyrating, thonged bottoms, you might like it. If you watch films for their stories, you’ll be disappointed.