Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★

You may go into Spring Breakers expecting a B-Movie schlock fest, one filled with all sorts of pulp indulgence. Save for a few hilarious moments, you will not find much pulp in this movie at all. The latest from Harmony Korine is one that opts for irony, repetition, deflation and distillation over cheap thrills.

This is not a film endorsing Spring Break culture or the hedonistic impulses within. It is constantly trying to create an appropriate distance from it by rendering it so utterly repetitive as to lose all effect. It is deliberately trying to make all these “pornographic” images feel boring. It doesn’t clue us into the morality by admonishing the characters; it does so by admonishing the audience.

So often the film steers away from titillation by taking all this brightly sun-lit, sexual imagery and counting it with the holy-sounding, elliptical score (from Cliff Martinez & Skrillex) where the wind-chimed prayers clash violently with in-your-face Dubstep, which creates such a disparate context. Korine himself said: “It is as if Gaspar Noe made a Britney Spears video.” which should be all you need to understand that this is a visceral exercise in pointed commentary. Korine even used Noe’s cinematographer Benoît Debie to hammer this sentiment home. But I would even go further with the description of how the film was constructed. It would arguable that it’s like James Franco’s Alien character was trying to make a movie about his almost-religious love for Spring Break and did so in the vein of The Tree of Life.

Nowhere should the film’s satire be more evident than the multiple sequences of debaucherous partying set against the audio of one of the girls making a phone call to her grandmother. Regaling her with stories about how everyone is so damn sweet and how this is one of the most spiritual places they’ve ever been… you know… as they drink to puke-level and pee on the road. It’s just one of those moments in the film where it becomes a perfect expression of what Korine is going for; where it dives into the lurid insanity of “Spring Break Logic” which exists as a weird combination of naiveté, desire and the complete lack of understanding of consequence. It’s the details of culture and its valuing of infantilization: girls with animal backpacks and pastel nail polish watching My Little Pony, all while indulging in beer bongs, cocaine, bikinis, taking off bikinis and participating in abstract violence.

And Korine doesn’t let that cognitive dissonance sit there as realism, he takes it as far as it can go. He takes it to the ends of fringe culture that most interest him. He takes it to James Franco’s ridiculous Alien character. He takes it to the point where a reverse blowjob at gunpoint becomes a soulmate-creating event. For fuck’s sake, it is the kind of film where our heroines dress in ski masks and dance about with AK47’s to a Britney Spears piano ballad. But don’t mistake this for being solely about the obvious power-plays. The film is also full of unspoken moments, like where one of the girls was happy to party with all the white dregs of society, but suddenly has a freak out and “just wants to go home” when she’s in an African-american pool hall. It’s such a perfectly constructed detail.

For all its glorious complications, Spring Breakers is a pure expression of the raging dissonance in society’s brain. It reflects inward. It reflects outward. It makes you laugh at absurdity and bores you with that which may titillate you at other times. It obliterates traditional context and turns it into something transcendent.

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