Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★½

The first sequence of Harmony Korine’s devilishly good new film Spring Breakers—comprised of intimate views of scantily clad, young female body-parts on a Florida beach, most of them gyrating—perfectly encapsulates the film’s modus operandi. This type of establishing shot has become commonplace in T&A-focused cinema, like the latest Porky’s knockoff (whatever that was) — to the point at which most male viewers would be disappointed if a movie called Spring Breakers didn’t include it at some point. But the way that Korine presents the images is more extreme than usual: in gratuitous close-up, set to intense and overwhelming electronica by Skrillex. Korine heightens what viewers expect of this genre—what they require to proverbially “get off”—so that the film tightly straddles the fine line between arousal and offensiveness. In doing so, the filmmaker allows the viewer to be both thrilled in the moment and then later skeptical of the pornographic place that American art/culture may be headed.

These two seemingly contradictory experiences may cause some critics to deem Spring Breakers hypocritical, but this is not so, in that the film’s sex- and violence-filled events are grounded in hyperbole rather than realism. Unlike many of the less extreme works that it’s riffing on, from American Pie 2 to MTV’s long-running, so-called reality show The Real World, the film never attempts to normalize its lewd behavior. Instead, the material is always depicted as an outrageous silver-screen fantasy — one that audiences can take pleasure in without practically glorifying, as it’s so far removed from reality. But what Korine powerfully suggests at the same time is that this could eventually become a “normalized” film if we allow our society to engage its basest urges too intensely, to both internalize and continually demand more in the way of explicitness from the American Pies and Real Worlds. This is where Spring Breakers attains its social relevance: it’s not only a fantasy, but a comment about how fantasy should be responsibly presented and viewed.

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