SpringBreakers

Is Spring Breakers just trying to shock, or is there a deeper message somewhere within the colour and sound?

Spring Breakers: Described by critics as Scarface meets Britney Spears.  Also labeled as trashy MTV reality show turned art cinema. Intrigued? And if you’re not, well, then the overtly sexual and commercially viable female quartet including Disney stars Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez and preteen celebrity of Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benso, bearing all, must.

The movie seems to have titillated the general public. For technically an art cinema film by a less than conventional director, Harmony Korine, who wrote the screenplay for the cult classic, Kids, it has had considerable box office success in America, the UK, and throughout the world. Its major appeal, however, truly seems to stem from a fascination with Disney girls gone wild and their commentary on a debauched American dream, excess, and celebrity.

These girls are exotic for most part, yet the epitomes of an essentially American phenomenon: tanned, groomed embodiments of American youth.  They dance, drink, snort, and are paradoxically beautiful and monstrous, entrancing and repellent, enthralling and frightening.  Some might interpret the girls to be the representatives of the decline of the West clad in neon bikinis, especially in a film that deals with ‘spring break’, a custom so deeply seated as part of the American experience.

However, the film may be no more than entrancingly aesthetic.  The world of Spring Breakers is a candy-colored apocalypse backed by a soundtrack from dubstep favorite Skrillex. Gaudy color and flash-forwards, flashbacks, and repeated scenes and dialogue make it like a marijuana-induced dream—a fantasy of blood, sex and violence.  It is a fantasy that becomes evident in Act Two, beginning with the introduction of James Franco’s character ‘Alien’, adorned with grillz and cornrows.  He is a self-proclaimed gangsta and a white caricature of black masculinity. He is a character intensified by the fact that James Franco spent months living and mingling with ghetto Florida society in the nature of method acting.  In Act Two, Alien becomes a perversion of a savior for the girls.  He saves them from coke-induced jail time, and the story transforms into a freakish fairy tale resulting in a sexual and violent ménage between the distorted prince charming and the Disney girls. He allows the girls to role-play thugs without the consequences, and to play house with a drug dealer without true burden.  The fantasy of blood and sex continues.

In the film there is a sadistic fascination with sex and blood in the very Shakespearean tradition à la Macbeth. The girls and the drug dealers get sexual pleasure from violence.  In one scene Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson force James Franco to give oral sex to a loaded gun whilst repeatedly screaming ‘I’m gonna f**kin’ kill you’ and ‘get on your knees’. Blood and sex seem to be synonymous in the film most violently exemplified by the girls’ committing murder in hot pink bikinis.  The director plays with his Disney stars and they seem more than happy to comply with the director’s sexual demands.

So is this film a social commentary on a violent and sexual excess of the American Dream, or just another romp of hedonism in the nature of a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ video?  Either way, at times, director Harmony Korine aims to make you feel like you are in the middle of a grotesque horror film. When I first saw the film in the cinema in Atlanta, Georgia, three teenage boys walked out with thirty minutes to spare. Even excess Disney star nudity could not entice the boys to stay.

But maybe what Harmony Korine is trying to say is exemplified in his allusion to Fitzgerald’s novel on the American Dream, The Great Gatsby. Both Gatsby and Alien state ‘look at all my stuff!’  However, instead of throwing shirts in the air, Franco has machine guns, cash, dope, and animal print accessories.  It’s the American Dream taken to a hedonistic extreme—the pursuit of happiness gone wild.

 

 

Natalie Ulman

 

Image Credit: Lucie Nováčková, lucie@blueskyfilm.cz