Spring Breakers This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 8, 2013
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Harmony Korine's previous film, "Trash Humpers," is pretty much about what the title suggests, people who hump trash. It premiered at Sundance to a predictably divided crowd and since then, it has struggled to find its own audience.
The fact that it is called "Trash Humpers," was blasted by critics on its official release and is not carried by Netflix on account of "sexual content" has made the film even more elusive. To know the saga of controversy a Harmony Korine film goes through is crucial to realizing the conventionality of his newest film, "Spring Breakers."

"Spring Breakers" follows four college girls as they go on a trip to St. Petersburg for spring break, their goal being to engage in as much debauchery as possible. Korine makes this clear from the film's opening scene; extended, slow motion shots of sweaty body parts as men pour drinks on women not wearing much more than a pair of sunglasses. This is all set to a blaring, robotic Skrillex song. It's like an auter's take on Girls Gone Wild.

As we meet the girls, played by Selena Gomez (Faith), Vanessa Hudgens (Candy), Rachel Korine (Cotty), and Ashley Benson (Brit), they realize they don't have enough money for their long-brewing Florida romp. In order to get the necessary funds, three of the girls (Faith remaining in the dark) decide to rob a fast food restaurant.

The robbery scene is arguably the most electric of the entire film. The camera doesn't follow the two girls inside the restaurant, but rather Cotty in the getaway car, circling the area, waiting for Candy and Brit to finish the task. Because of this, the audience only sees the action through the frame of the window, the depressing fluorescents of the chicken shack the only differentiable colors on the screen (especially jarring since up to this point the film’s color palate is candy-colored neon).

This and the fact that the action is cut off whenever Cotty passes a window gives the scene an extra level of tension and sets up the film's surreal fever dream atmosphere that's prevalent throughout the entire running time.

Once the girls arrive in Florida, they start to party. This means extended scenes echoing the opening, lots of bare chests and illicit drugs. These music video-esque scenes seem to exist only to help the leading girls shed their Disney-sanctioned good-girl images. This is definitely effective; especially when later in the film the girls start casually wielding guns.
However this puts a hamper on the girls' characterization. The screenplay never expands on the girls' motivations or personalities outside of Selena Gomez's Faith, who never even goes far beyond good Christian girl.

The film does find its breakout character early on in James Franco's Alien, an ultra-sleazy rapper that's a gross mix of Kevin Federline and Riff Raff. Alien provides most of the films most comic moments. For example, an insane monologue where Alien shows Candy and Brit his possessions that includes the line "I got Scarface. On repeat. SCARFACE ON REPEAT. Constant, y'all!" More importantly (or less, depending on how much you like James Franco's cornrows) it's a brave, out-there role that Franco can really shine in, especially refreshing after his barely there presence in this year's "Oz the Great and Powerful."

Alien comes into the girls' lives after he bails them out of jail following a predictable arrest. He then entangles the girls in his shady drug business. In theory, the audience should feel some sort of moral objection to the characters becoming involved with Franco's character, but they're not all that well-developed, and Korine makes it obvious the girls, with an exception of Faith, are obsessed with violence.

Unfortunately, this is where the film falls into convention. The girls embark on more and more Alien-fueled robberies. These scenes become increasingly monotonous. Gone are the standout moments, like the original robbery scene, that are kinetic, tense and hypnotic. In their place are dull, even predictable occurrences that stall the film's momentum, as well as making the film's fever dream persona slightly boring.

This all leads into a fairly overwrought final standoff that, despite its complete implausibility, reaches the heights of the first half of the film.

Being Korine's first "mainstream" film, I couldn't help feel he suffered from a form of stage fright. With his teen friendly cast, Korine may have felt compelled to make a film that appealed to the masses. Despite this, he's created a trance of a film that's smart, unique, and unforgettable. By the time the credits roll, the film's unofficial log line will be ingrained in your brain: spring break forever.

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Mckay This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm
Perfectly reviewed. I couldn't agree anymore. Nonetheless, I did enjoy that one scene where the Britney song played. Don't know why. Any who, 5/5
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