Spring Breakers opens with a dubstep-set montage of bare tits, beer bongs, butts, bros and bikinis—the general list of things that start with the letter "B" and are associated with American spring break. I’m recalling this from Friday night—for some reason I didn’t get advanced press passes—so if I’m hazy on the details you can sue me. Oh, and obviously my friends and I were varying degrees of inebriated, which we thought appropriate considering the visual and auditory spectacle we were promised. For some, that opening image of debauchery will be the film's lasting impression—the hazy fantasy of a suburban teen doing whip-its in his living room while MTV Spring Break plays full blast on a 3DTV.
At the completely opposite pole, some will delve too deeply into the artsy shit, the critique of youth culture. The truth of this movie, for me, falls right in the sweet spot between the two. Spring Breakers is not quite a cutting social criticism and slightly more than an awesome 90-minute music video. The movie works on a few levels, but none of them dig too deep, which is perfect. The movie is simple fun. I implore you, don’t over think it. But because of the massive media hype for the movie, and the odd assemblage—The writer of Kids who was also the director of Gummo Harmony Korine, his young wife playing alongside three former/current Disney starlets, James Franco doing (not doing) a Floridian Riff Raff and beefing with Gucci Mane—this movie will be dissected way too much and that’s a mistake. Now's about the time where I tell you why, by dissecting it way too much.
Early Twitter reviews from teens indicate they didn’t enjoy it, despite the amount of boobs (a "distracting amount" according to my friend Jeff) and drugs and guns. I suspect the lack of a spoon fed narrative arc left the kids confused and bored.
I’ve avoided reading any “real” reviews, but I suspect the old heads (LOL if you're 30+) will dismiss it, or laud it, as an example, a possibly genius one, of millenial vapidity. The characters in Spring Breakers live in a world where there are no consequences to crime or to drug use. There are no STDs. It's a film about a generation of kids that grew up playing Grand Theft Auto. But the film is too silly to be taken that literally. I cringed a few times, but it was more due to the shock of hearing college aged girls talk in a movie the same way they do in real life when they’re alone with each other, or seeing them pee in bushes the way college aged girls the same way they do in real life when they're super drunk.
From what I understand, the '90s needed Kids. 2013 may not need Spring Breakers, but we’ll take it and we’ll enjoy it.
Someone who totally has her finger on the pulse of our generation, Lena Dunham, tweeted that the movie “will be in my head for a long time.” I’d wager she’s over-thinking it too. This is a film whose best scene begins with James Franco playing Britney Spears’ “Everytime” on a grand piano on the beach. Korine repeatedly teases us with a valid critique only to remind us not to take this shit too seriously.
Spring Breakers is not without flaws. Giving that much screen time to the stars of Wizards of Waverly Place, High School Musical and Pretty Little Liars (which is a great fucking show, so that may be a moot point) was a bold move. Franco’s performance is hard to gauge because it’s such a caricature, but props to him for resisting the urge to make a complete joke of it. He plays it straight. Even the ladies tried their best. They're not great, but I never doubted the sincerity of any of their performances. That tells me they trusted their director and believed in the film, which is, you know, something, I guess.
Korine’s direction is what causes more problems than anything else. His attempts at making the audience experience a drug-addled pursuit of eternal summer is heavy handed. It takes skill to walk people to the edge before reminding them to take a step back and enjoy the view. Up until now, I'm not sure Korine has ever cared for that whole taking a step back part. It's way easier to just push somebody off of a cliff.
But if Korine knows anything, it's youth. He proved that when he was young, writing a strikingly accurate portrayal in Kids. Spring Breakers isn’t Kids, and thankfully, it doesn’t try to be. None of the scenes will stick with me and I’m fine with that. Korine seems fine with that too. This really is about having a good time, not giving a lecture. From what I understand, the '90s needed Kids. 2013 may not need Spring Breakers, but we’ll take it and we’ll enjoy it.
So no, Spring Breakers won’t be remembered as a seminal piece of filmmaking or, given its massive profile, a true cult classic. Where will its place in history be? Throwing it on at a party? It really is the perfect backdrop, similar to Drive, another movie lacking traditional elements, that was over-hyped before settling into itself over time as nothing more than an energetic and visually stimulating film. Go see Spring Breakers and don't worry if you smoked a blunt beforehand. Remember, it’s all in good fun.