Day 196: Spring Breakers

"This is poetry in motion, big booties and money fallin' y'all!"

Harmony Korine, as both writer & director, has never made a film that even remotely interested me or that I found any sort of redeeming qualities in. He is a provocateur, and his debut screenplay, Kids, made for the perfect storm of provocation when it was directed by one of the most despicable directors alive, Larry Clark. That film is absolute, exploitative garbage, claiming to be aimed at teenagers, but clearly intended for gross, disgusting adults who get their rocks off on watching teens participate in risky behaviors. 

While his newest film as writer & director, Spring Breakers, is nowhere near as openly aimed at people with pedophiliac tendencies, it's somehow worse in the fact that it thinks it actually has something meaningful to say about the typical American college girl experience. Part of me hopes that it does anyway, because if it's actually trying to subvert those and becomes sort of the inverse, a film that exploits exploitation so to speak, than it's even more hideous.

The film opens with the boring & disparate tales of four college friends. There's the inseparable Brit (Ashley Benson) & Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), who spends most of her time onscreen making guns with her thumb and forefinger and firing them at her head, in her mouth or at others. There's Cotty (Rachel Korine) who defies description other than to say she's basically just like the other two, and then there's Faith (Selena Gomez) to whom we're introduced at some sort of wacky college evangelical Christian gathering. Look, nobody despises evangelical Christians as much as I do, but even I was offended by the way Korine portrayed this group of college students & their "hip" pastor. 

Faith is obviously the one who's not like the other three, but spends her time with them because they've been friends since Kindergarten. The girls are planning a trip to Florida for Spring Break, but don't have enough money to make the trip, so Brit, Candy & Cotty decide to don ski masks and rob a greasy spoon chicken shack with a hammer & a painted water gun. Their plan goes swimmingly and the girls now have enough money to head to St. Pete. When they arrive, it's the typical parent's nightmare bacchanalia. Liquor, drugs, tits, douchebag guys with faux-hawks, cocaine, white rappers, slow motion, keg stands, borderline rape, actual rape, those sorts of things. This portion of the film plays out like an extended highlight reel for dirty old men to feather their sacks to. 

There's no redeeming qualities to any of the girls as they ride around on scooters, sing "Hit Me Baby One More Time" in a liquor store parking lot, or re-enact the robbery that got them there for Faith's benefit. In short, it was enough to make me want to leave the theater. But something kept me there. It was the entire reason that I had shown up to the movie in the first place, and that was the promise of seeing a full-on bat shit crazy performance from James Franco. Franco makes a brief appearance earlier in the film rapping on the beach at a concert, and I was beginning to think he may not come back. 

Then the girls get arrested at a hotel party where they're caught snorting coke with two wiggers. The wiggers happen to be in the posse of Franco's character Alien, and when Alien sees them in court, threatened with more jail time if they're unable to pay their bail, he steps in and bails them out. He's a drug dealing, gun-loving, white guy who thinks he's black, and he felt compelled to help these girls out and show them a good time in his part of St. Pete. When they arrive at a party, Faith begins to get bad feelings and wants to go back home. Alien tells her she can go, but that her friends are staying, and with that, the only remotely likable character in the film leaves, and the film takes a steep plunge into shitsville. 

Now, I'm not saying I liked the character of Faith or that I enjoyed the movie more when she was in it, but the prospect of losing any sort of voice of reason character made the film's remaining forty minutes an endurance test. Alien has a bit of a turf war going with his childhood friend Big Arch (Gucci Mane), and the remaining three girls want in on Alien's posse and want to become part of his war. When Cotty is shot in the arm by one of Arch's bitches, she leaves for home as well, removing the only other obstacle between Alien, Brit & Candy's dream love affair. 

There is an absolutely interminable sequence in Alien's pool where the three of them have sex, and the girls are constantly calling him a scaredy cat because they know he wants to kill Arch, but won't go through with it. They seriously repeat the same four lines of dialogue, ad nauseam, for five or six minutes. And of course the film ends in a bloodbath with two teenage girls from the middle of nowhere gunning down multiple thugs guarding Big Arch's house. Nonsense.

None of this is to mention the extended "look at my shit" monologue by Franco, where he implores Brit & Candy to look at his guns, money, bed, sneakers, socks, television, money & other assorted shit. This monologue ends with the girls forcing him to fellate the business end of two silenced rifles. Oh, and he's wearing zubaz. I'm serious when I say that I can't tell if they're being serious or not, and I'm not sure which is more disconcerting to me. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the sing-along around Alien's poolside piano of Britney Spears' "Everytime," that then becomes a montage of Alien & the girls robbing & pillaging. I hate to get political here, but I wish every NRA member and every person in Congress fighting to protect our current gun laws would watch this movie. These are the "responsible gun owners" that they're trying to protect. Dumb. 

This movie is so god damned dumb it makes me angry. I wish that I could say there were some redeeming qualities. I wish I could tell you it's worth seeing for James Franco, but he's somehow worse in this than he was in Oz. It seems like the kind of performance that's right in his wheelhouse, with his grill & cornrows & Kevin Federline vibe, but he's almost too self-conscious as an actor to truly go for it. His accent keeps changing, and he just honestly doesn't appear to be taking it seriously, which again leads me to wonder if this entire movie is serious or not. 

Spring Breakers is one of the absolute worst movies I have ever laid eyes on. It's pure garbage with no soul, designed to titillate the viler impulses in the worst people in our society. Steer clear of anyone that thinks this is a good movie or an interesting movie or thinks that it's deep. It isn't. It's shallow and it's the worst kind of shallow because it thinks it's making a statement about shallowness in our society. I hated this film with every fiber of my being.

[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]