Movie Review - Spring Breakers

Scene from "Spring Breakers" where
they sing along to a Britney Spears song.
I'm sure someone in some college somewhere has written a paper or essay on spring break and how, for Americans, it's a modern-day bacchanalia. This would be perhaps an attempt to justify its existence. Otherwise, the whole thing is rather pointless. From an economic standpoint, it seems like spring break would be important to the economy of Florida and to tourism in America in general, especially in coastal communities or abroad. Writer-director Harmony Korine with his latest film might also be trying to justify its existence by conceding that, yes, it is a bacchanalia, but, instead of going to Florida to lose oneself and simply have fun, as most would say, spring break might be a place to find oneself and learn whom one is.

Through voice-over, this is what one of the four college girls says is the value or takeaway from the particular spring break depicted here. This is also perhaps Korine's ultimate intention. Unfortunately, as an audience member, I don't think I like what the young girls find or learn about themselves. That, and the pathway that Korine lays out for them feels too contrived, and, sadly, I think a lot of this comes from the introduction and presence of James Franco's character.

James Franco plays Alien, a drug dealer and rapper who bails out the four college girls and seduces them into his small world with big implications. His world possesses things of which they're accustomed, that of sex, drugs, guns and crime. Only, for Alien, it's doubly intense or far more concentrated. At a basic level, the question is if the girls will be a part of Alien's world or not, whether they'll cozy up to Alien and his guns or whether they'll get on a bus and go home.

Given the way Korine has structured his previous films, I shouldn't be surprised with the very slippery sense of this story. The character details including the names of these four girls are sketched in thin pencil lines instead of deep and bold markers. Korine gives us the briefest of glimpses before launching these girls into the fray. He certainly doesn't give us enough to make us care whether these four live or die.

Scene from M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls" -
a better representation of girls with guns
All we're left with are four actresses doing a glorified Girls Gone Wild video. Imagery here also reminded me of M.I.A.'s music video for her song "Bad Girls." The context of M.I.A.'s setting and the girls with guns and head coverings is understood and stands as a powerful and beautiful act of empowerment and rebellion. Yet, for Spring Breakers, there is no context that makes the scantily-clad or even naked girls with guns come across as nothing more than wasteful and ugly.

If there is a context, the obvious one to infer is that these are girls who are entitled and spoiled. They've been bred in a culture of violence propelled by movies and video games that has been unfair to women but not to the degree of women portrayed by M.I.A., women in the Middle East or in Muslim countries. These young girls in Spring Breakers being white also reflects an air of privilege that could be put on them without the aid of context or depth, which Korine's film also lacks.

Yet, I could have accepted that because Korine's film is built more on his cinematography and music. This narrative is constructed mostly with little dialogue. As such, it can be difficult to build context, but that's something that hardly troubled Terrence Malick. Korine could have purposely wanted these pencil-thin sketches, which would have been fine, if those sketches hadn't been completely overshadowed when Franco's Alien appears.

Franco's character could have been a fascinating little, sexy devil, sent to entice the girls, but Alien goes off the rails in one scene that sinks the rest of the movie for me. To paraphrase, Alien repeats over and over for the girls to look at his crap. He then proceeds to name all the items in his bedroom.

It's a scene that feels improvised and not in a good way. It feels as if Franco is searching for the next line but can't remember, so he just starts naming the crap in front of him, as he sees it. His demeanor is like Franco acknowledging the ridiculousness of his character. It's almost like he's stumbling through a Saturday Night Live skit where he's constantly on the verge of laughing.

It was this scene that totally disconnected me from Franco's character and what he represented, which practically consumes the latter half of this movie. Nothing he did following it was anything that I could take seriously. This is sad because he showed so much potential in the scene prior where Alien is trying to convince Faith, played by Selena Gomez, not to leave what essentially becomes his harem.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong sexual content, language, nudity, drug use and violence throughout.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 33 mins.


  1. Good review Marlon. The result of this movie is something that's equal parts enjoyable and uncomfortable. It is challenging, raw, gritty, sad and real, but worth a watch.

  2. This is actually one of my favorites thus far this year. I loved Franco's performance in this one.

    A couple of scenes really stood out for me, the robbing of the chicken shack in the beginning of the film and the piano scene were both really well done IMO.

    I can see why some folks would not enjoy the film but it worked for me.


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