Spring Break Forever.
Ok, once you’re done LOLing over the cross-demographic marketing gimmick of tossing youth starlets with squeaky clean personas (that have been sold to us by Disney Channel and ABC Family) into an R-rated sin-fest soaked in sex, drugs, and EDM directed by the excruciatingly independent Harmony Korine (whose previous film was Trash Humpers, a movie about people who hump trash), maybe you’ll be ready to sit down with me and have an actual conversation about this transcendentally BRILLIANT filmic encapsulation, summation, exploitation, celebration, and deconstruction of where we are right here and right now. Spring Break Forever.
So, there are going to be some people in the audience who are there because they’re “serious” filmgoers who put films like Gummo in the “movies” section of social media profiles just so you know just what level of seriousness you’re dealing with here. The filmgoer who smirks when they overhear audiences complain about things like a “lack of plot,” or “unlikable characters,” or “it didn’t have an ending.” This person is here to see the latest Harmony Korine auteur piece, and they will look at the other subsection of the audience and scoff “Will these kids even understand that this movie is satirical? Do they even know who Harmony Korine is? They don’t realize it’s a joke on them, not for them.”
Well, maybe they’re right.
But I don’t think they are.
Spring Break Forever.
This film is not satirical…….at least not in the usual, boring way, with some sort of “statement” to be decoded with our big giant brains. It’s much closer to a Paul Verhoven (Starship Troopers, Showgirls) sort of satire, a film that just goes down the rabbit hole and completely immerses itself in its own universe, with no reassurance that it’s been coy, no pause for a wink at the audience, no real indication of how we’re “supposed to react.”
Some viewers will go in thinking this is a film about them and about a world they inhabit, while others will see a world that is on the brink of existing, one that we watch decay as we lament the decline of culture or the intellect or manners or grammar or whatever it is people lament the decline of. Maybe one kind of viewer will look at the other kind and wonder what they got out of it. Either they didn’t get the “commentary” it was making (whatever that is), or they just couldn’t appreciate that it was “just a movie,” or they’re so old and far gone from youth culture that they confuse the accuracy in the film for parody. This film might end up meaning different things to different people, at first.
This film is all of those things. It is the documentation and it is the glorification and it is the skewering and it is deliverance. Spring Breakers is for all of this, and it is all of us. A film that takes on the totality of a culture with this ambitious a scope cannot be reduced to a “point of view.” If it weren’t for the irresistible, addictive, highly watchable, colorful, video game/music video kinesis of the cinematography (created by Benoit Debie, who shot Enter the Void and The Runaways) you might even catch yourself making weird comparisons to colder, more clinical, obviously outsider filmmakers like Kubrick. Korine always seemed like an outsider filmmaker too, for obvious reasons. But he’s dove in this time. Right down into it. He’s gotten wet. All wet. Spring Break Forever.
Movies like Cosmopolis and The Social Network seem to purport to be sad portraits of the shallowness of late capitalism and how indulging in all that action hollows out your soul and how the worst kind of people rise to power, and when I watch those films I get all that, fine, but I can’t help but fantasize about how great it would be screw my best friends out of their money so I can become the youngest billionaire and how I just wanna lay back in that limo and have sex on my way to get a haircut while the world goes to shit outside. There’s something missing from, or something extra in those movies that in the end sort of tempers, or dialects the “moral.” I’m not so sure if it takes away from or adds to those films, but with Spring Breakers, if there is a point, then that is it, that we yearn for the fantasy while we are officially recoiling in horror. But “horror” is too strong a word, and so is “recoiling.” It’s too seductive. We know better, but we can’t resist. We’ll call our moms right after, and promise to be better, we will…..
There’s so much to do here. There’s the analogue to counterintuitively Christian/Puritan films like Fellini Satyricon that draw that age old connection between loose sexual morals and the fall of a civilization. Kids is also pretty moralistic too, isn’t it? (Youths indulging in sex and drugs and skateboarding and it all leads to AIDS.) There’s a beautiful manage a trois scene in this one that recalls one of the sweeter moments of Ken Park. We could talk about ways in which these characters are much like the liberated, delinquent hedonists that run amok in Trash Humpers, or that apocalypse as a real thing has been at work in Korine’s universe since the tornado-devastated town in Gummo, and we could see where that takes us. Playing the home version of Auteur Theory Connect-the-Dots can be marginally satisfying sometimes.
We haven’t even gotten to Spring Breakers’ focused exploration of the white youth’s fetishist fantasy to dabble, consequence-free, in the world of the African-American “ghetto” community, as learned about through that condescendo-glamorizing filter affixed to Youtube screens, and here dominated and personified by rapper Gucci Mane.
Oh shoot, and James Franco! He’s going to be one of the fixtures of most of the reviews you’ll read, but it’s hard to disagree with that—it’s one of the most realized characterizations (inspired by IRL rappers like Riff Raff and Dangeruss) of his career, and the dual persona of gun-tatted rapper on the one hand and pretty boy Franco on the other couldn’t be more proper for the fantasy studied/perpetuated by the film. And his already legendary “look at my shit” speech…….well, you’ll hear it.
And those pink ski masks they do their crimes in. And the violent montage set to Franco’s rendition of Brittney Spears’ “Everytime.” And the Skrillex.
This film is for all of us. This film is all of us. You won’t be able to resist it, and I wouldn’t trust anyone who could. The best Hollywood films are the ones that seem to thoughtfully analyze while they carelessly titillate…the less these two goals temper each other the better, and if you can find a way to make them help to accomplish one another, then that is something to celebrate. And as consumers living under commercial reign, nothing is worthy of more celebration at the cinema than the celebration of commercial cinema itself.
Spring Breakers is more than exciting, it’s excited.
Spring Break Forever.
"Spring Breakers" opens March 22, 2013 and is rated R. Comedy, Crime. Directed by Harmony Korine . Written by Harmony Korine. Starring Ashley Benson, Gucci Mane, James Franco, Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens.