May 312014

There are films that ramble, films that pander, and films that needlessly exploit. Spring Breakers achieves the rare dishonor of excelling at all three. Apparently director Harmony Korine believes that the best way of satirizing the moral decadence that continues to rip apart society’s seams is to rub peoples’ noses in sex and violence. Given the maturity level of your average sex-starved teeny-bopper wannabe, that’s like giving a chocolate bar to a six-year-old and reprimanding him for enjoying it. Spring Breakers, despite its pseudo-intellectual pretensions, has the essential qualities of a mass-audience-pleasing film. Korine’s acid-rave cinematography, spiraling around beaches and party rooms showing off bikini-clad bods, glamorizes the lusts for nether pleasures. Everyone knows that the weenie is an easier muscle to work than the brain.

What an uplifting message to be purveying to hordes of feckless, disillusioned American youth: when you’re bored with the mundane creature comforts of middle-class suburbia, you just gotta have a rush—something that, like, excites you. For three of the four scantily clad whores in Korine’s ode to hedonism—namely Cotty (Rachel Korine), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens)—that feeling initially takes the form of purposeless crime. Well, actually, there is a purpose, if fortnight-long debauchery can be called one. It’s called spring break, and they need lots of moola for it. Time to get your robbin’ on, bitches.

As the lone member of the band of picaresque pleasure seekers who is not privy to the violence, Faith (Selena Gomez) represents Korine’s crude attempt to ironize his take-home point, a moral compass who fails to lead us to solid ground in the midst of Korine’s hazy vision. Little Miss Good Girl, an attendee of prayer-group meetings back home, longs for more “spiritual” experiences, presumably like sweaty palms grabbing her tushie or blowing lines in a bathroom. When it comes to hanging around with strangers, however—especially gangstas with gold teeth and dreds like Alien (James Franco)—she draws a line in the sand.

Faith and Alien: a pair of absurdly stock names for a pair of absurdly stock characters. I’m so glad I learned that moral fiber doesn’t mesh well with a diet of gangbanging and booty. Alien’s arrival on the scene to bail the chickies out after a cop-busted party illustrates why Spring Breakers might as well have been a cartoon, albeit of a much more raunchy and less intellectually stimulating kind than Calvin and Hobbes. Why, exactly, would this filthy excuse for human life see criminal potential in this sad assemblage of bimbos? God only knows, even though He probably doesn’t want to. This is a film that has the illusion of saying something socially significant but ultimately fails to present a situation that’s even remotely plausible. Keep right on stupidly smirking, Satan.

James Franco artfully assists in Korine’s futile endeavor by overacting until his face turns beet red, waving machine guns around as if he wants us to think he’s Joe Pesci from Goodfellas but coming across like a rabid raccoon on speed. His female entourage constitutes the perfect foil, a group of expressionlesss sex dolls whose strings are manipulated for murder, not to mention pelvis thrusting, by their puppeteer. At least that goes for the two, Brit and Candy, who stick around for his scummy embraces after their crybaby companions pack up their toys and catch the bus home. Those who didn’t think the film was a rip-off of a Girls Gone Wild video at first surely will when they see the pool of jello-y flesh coalesce in Alien’s hot tub. Charlie Manson would admire the control this guy has over his disposable meat market, though he’d probably wonder about how too-cool-for-school hotties can take such an infantile dweeb seriously. Ah well, guess it must be true what they say about chicks and wads of cash.

Guess it must also be true what they say about critical consensuses and wads of visually pretentious fluff. Spring Breakers reeks of the cheap tricks of the cinematic trade: super sexy slo-mo, pointillistic fading exposures, eye-level shots, aerial perspectives. Too bad Korine’s visual virtuosity isn’t matched with any hint of structural or critical awareness. This is the type of film critics read profundity into merely because it shocks. Already they’ve been debating whether it objectifies women or empowers them. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just don’t care about making the obvious deep, the unsmart smart, or the gratuitous necessary. To me, it comes down to a simple choice on a drunken Saturday night: Deep Throat, Investigation Discovery, or Spring Breakers?

Joe’s Grade: D+

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