Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers ★★★★

Despite my misgivings, it turns out Spring Breakers isn't some sneaky in-joke by Harmony Korine making fun of people dazzled by bright colors and wanting to have a good time. Well, it is, but it's less of a joke than an elegy; not a diatribe against Dionysian debauchery but instead a tragic story of the subversive co-opting of youth culture by commercialism and the effects it has on people snookered by it from the cradle to the (early) grave. Everything I assumed about Korine's M.O. throughout his oevre has been thrown into doubt thanks to the heart on display here.

Spring Breakers isn't really about 4 girls getting in over their heads. Sure, the girls are 'on display' (in all its lecherous connotations) in nearly every scene, but for the most part, that's all they are - floor models, plot points, and macguffins to drive home the real narrative; Faith and Alien. Candy, Brit, and Cotty are purposefully undeveloped to keep the focus on the two stars. Faith is the embryonic stage of these girls - certainly not pristine, but still human. She's the voice of reason in a sea of lunacy, and though her story of the disillusionment in freedom plays it safe (her Christian background is a necessity to establish some sort of moral foothold, but perhaps a little too focused on), that desire for something more turning into something more than we bargained for is frightening - like a sense of anti-claustrophobia. While her resolution calls for a little more sympathy than it deserves (yes, dear, the world isn't fair or as exciting as the ads make it out to be), it feels like Korine is scared of the same things she is - without a cage, what'll stop us from falling?

And then, Alien. What a phenomenal character. Franco deserves a lot of the credit for bringing him to life, but his entire premise is really what makes him so intriguing. Alien is Spring Break. He's living it, forever. The worst part of it is, he doesn't really want to. He's miserable. There's a scene, and a bizarre and frightening one at that, where Alien calls Candy and Brit his soulmates. He does so not out of lust, or love, or impulse, but because they are his angels of death. They will deliver him from this hell. Sure, it's a hell of his own making, but in this particular forever, he's on a train that won't stop. It can't stop. He decided early on the cage wasn't for him, and the rest of his life has been falling, and falling, and falling. "Look at all my shit." All that shit and not a parachute in sight.

So Spring Breakers was a lot better than expected. There's something off about the adventure that's keeping me from fully embracing it (I'm still puzzling over what happens to Candy and Brit, and what Korine is trying to say there), but as my first outing with who I assumed to be LvT2.0, I'm more than pleased with the result. There's an actual film here, and one that understands sadness and betrayal quite well. Korine is reaching out with a warning, but does so in a way that doesn't preach, doesn't condemn (thanks to keeping its real antagonists, Candy and Brit, as almost mindless automatons). Not only does he present a fine story with great characters, his filming style here is suited to the material - lines are repeated and scenes play out of order to add a deepening sense of intoxication, of a lack of control, as the film goes on. You've won me over, Harmony. I'm still scared of you, but I'll let you be my Alien for a little while longer.

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