This review was originally written as part of my USA Road Trip series for French Toast Sunday.
For this addition of my USA Road Trip I’ll be celebrating – albeit a little tardily – that great American tradition of Spring Break as I delve into the wonderful insanity that is Florida, home state of FTS’ very own Robert, and he has informed me that it is definitively the craziest state in the whole country. Judging by this movie, I’ll have to agree. Spring Break is not a thing in the UK, or at least if it is I was never invited, and for that I’m grateful. I have a reputation for being anti-fun and especially anti-partying, and that goes double for absolutely everything that takes place in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, a film that, if I were a character in it, I’d have happily remained in the nondescript, comparatively tedious college town at the start because, as I’m frequently told, I fail at life.
Spring Breakers sees four girls who have been friends since their early childhood planning to go to Florida for Spring Break. The problem is they’re very, very stupid, and haven’t factored in that they actually need to pay to get there. They pool their money together but still come up far too short, so three of them – one in a religious good girl, so isn’t even informed of the larceny until after the event – rob a diner, and they all head to the beach on a party bus, that looks like a living Hell. They party their time away, drinking and drugging their way through the vacation, until they get arrested at a party. With no money left to pay bail and none of them willing to phone their parents for help, they are forced to rely on local DJ/gangsta-with-an-“A” Alien (James Franco) to get them out of prison, and then things get messy.
This is the kind of movie that all I’d heard about before watching was that it wasn’t the movie I thought it was going to be. From the promotional material it looked like some kind of slightly-more-serious, female-centric version of American Pie 2, with a group of friends – two of them Disney child stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudg7ens – going out and having some fun, getting into humorous misadventures orbiting around their own personal missions to get laid, high, drunk or all three simultaneously. However, I’d been told by numerous people that a) that’s not all that happens, b) I wouldn’t like what does, and c) James Franco is crazy-awesome all over the place. Therefore, I went in with my mind racing as to the places this film could go, and with expectations set high for some Franco lunacy, and instead found myself disappointed at how mostly everything kind of played out how I thought it would, with the girls getting into trouble, Franco bailing them out but then keeping them around and absorbing them into his world of crime and debauchery.
Also, Franco wasn’t even that great. If anything, I thought his performance was one of the weaker aspects of the film. It doesn’t help that literally everything about his role has become iconic and parodied to the point of being dull. His two keys scenes – the “Look at all my shit / I got Scarface on re-peat, yo!” and singing Britney Spears’ Everytime on his white, pool-side piano were huge let downs, and I felt the whole time he was on screen he was just dressed up for some costume party, and he was doing a bad job at improvising a character for a first draft of a skit that wouldn’t make the final cut of a slow week on SNL. I never once forgot it was Franco trying to play a part, and I genuinely don’t understand all the love he’s gotten for the role, and all the people who were somehow outraged that he wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I’d be more tempted to give him a Razzie.
The four girls were much better though. This was pretty much the first thing I’d seen any of them in (I will never admit to having seen High School Musical 2, never!) so I didn’t have much of a mental mould for them to be breaking out of, but I was still impressed. The friendship between them all was very well realised, particularly the slightly ostracised character of Faith (Selena Gomez) – and yes, I audibly groaned when the religious girl was called Faith – who has grown apart a little from the other girls in recent years. Alas, the other three – Vanessa Hudgens’ Candy, Ashley Benson’s Brit and director’s wife Rachel Korine’s Cotty – all kind of blended into one for me, without having much of a distinguishable character between them. Were it not for Hudgens being a more recognisable face I would have had her and Benson confused for the entire film, as they do everything together and may as well just be one person.
One thing I cannot say a word against is the look of the movie. It’s visually beautiful, even in the early shots of Candy and Brit attending a lecture, the hall full of faces barely illuminated by a rainbow of laptop screens. The whole thing is shot really well from start to finish, with a stark contrast setting in from the brightly lit, crisp party images to the far grittier, harsh scenes in prison and on the outside with Alien. The best scene, however, is the robbery at the start. It’s shot in one long take – always a favourite of mine – from the rolling perspective of the driver in the car, letting two of the girls out and circling round the building, watching the action unfold inside as the girls make their way through the diner, handling the clientele as they go, before getting back in the car and driving off. It’s masterfully done.
Admittedly there are some images from the film that are seared into my brain, unforgettable for occasionally the right reasons – Franco sucking off two guns simultaneously, girls dancing with massive guns wearing neon-pink balaclavas with unicorns embroidered on them, a guy smoking weed using a hollowed out baby doll as a bong – but this film has received far more praise than it deserves. It’s not a terrible movie, it just doesn’t even come close to living up to the hype.
Choose Life 5/10
Nice review. 🙂 I actually REALLY liked this movie quite a bit and cannot to this day figure out WHY. Lol. It’s a weird one. I did love the “look” of it & some very memorable, vivid scenes.
Please consider checking out my interpretation! I got so much out of this film:) https://mfilmtripping.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/the_swagger/
I can not fault your opinions of this movie Jay.Yeah Hudgens and Benson are the same girl. Gomez was a lot better then I thought. Agree with you on the visuals, You should know that Korine’s next project will star Idris Elba, and Al Pacino
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James Franco killed it. Loved watching his performance.
Maybe because I’ve been exposed to all of the cultures he covers in the film during my college days I felt I understood exactly where he was coming from. He’s a right-brained artsy weirdo and that’s a style I appreciate too:) Please consider checking out my interpretation! https://mfilmtripping.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/the_swagger/