Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spring Breakers (2012)

Title: Spring Breakers (2013)

Director: Harmony Korine

Cast: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Corine

Watching a Harmony Korine film can be a grueling experience, don’t know how many of you out there have seen Korine’s first film Gummo (1997), but it is such a raw and crude film that it can prove to be too much for some people. But then, the thing about Korine’s films is that most of the time they mix the real with the fictional until the lines blur and you don’t know which one is which. There’s lots of improvisation to his films, magical moments are provoked and end up happening in front of the camera, take for example a scene in which one of the girls puts a gun in James Franco’s mouth and he begins to start giving the gun a blow job. That scene was improvised! On Gummo we meet these two hill billy teenagers whom we follow through a day in their life, in their neighborhood. Man, let me tell ya, you never saw America look so ugly! You know how most films will film in these squeaky clean beautiful locations? Well, not Korine, for Gummo he went to the ugliest, scummiest parts of America to capture a side of American life you probably don’t want to see. Which is why Korine’s latest, Spring Breakers,  surprised me a bit. I mean, first thing I thought when I heard about this movie having girls in bikini from beginning to end was how Korine had sold out! I was like, damn, he finally broke down and did a commercial film! Which is like the furthest thing on my mind when I think of an ateur like Korine, but there it is. Spring Breakers. A "commercial film" that made its budget back more than three times over!

Spring Breakers is all about these four girls who are bored of college and want to have fun, they are ready to cut loose and live life to the fullest; squeeze it for all it’s worth. Basically they want to fulfill every hedonistic desire they can think of. So they do what any penniless college girls would do, they rob a restaurant, take the money and run. For a while, their plan works, but then things take a turn towards the dark side. Will they end up living the American Dream or the American Nightmare?

Spring Breakers was a confusing film for me because the marketing made it look like one of those dumb movies about young kids partying like animals, you know, like Project X (2012) 21 & Over (2013). I personally don’t like these types of movies;  don’t know why, I guess they feel overtly stupid to me somehow. So I kind of let Spring Breakers slip by me because of this preconception of the type of movie it might be. But deep down inside I thought to myself that Harmony Korine was not the kind of guy who’d sell out like that. I mean, his movies were always so shocking, like a solid punch to your gut! They  aren’t pretty things, they focus on the dark side of humanity. Some of his films, like for example Mister Lonely (2007) are incredibly surrealistic, feeling like something Alejandro Jodorowsky might have directed. So yeah, it surprised me then that Korine was suddenly doing this movie filled with sunsets and beaches and beautiful people in bikinis. So was Korine betraying himself with Spring Breakers? I get what he did here. Korine's films never made money. They were always art house films deemed too shocking or weird for mass consumption, but you know how the movie world is; directors have to walk that fine line between making art and making money if they want to stay in the game. And so girls in flourescent bikinis was a smart move on Korine's part; yes my friends, sex will always sell. But did Korine sell out all the way? Hell no!  

The deal with Spring Breakers is that from a distance, it looks like your typical party film about young people getting drunk and doing stupid things. And for a while, this movie is about that. These girls go into the heart of Spring Break in Florida and go all out, they smoke their weed, do their coke, have sex like maniacs, basically these girls party like animals, but like most films about excess, there’s the dark side. The side where life shows you that going over board has its limits and that having your brain on stupid mode for so long will blind you to the consequences of your actions. I liked how the film starts out in a beautiful place and slowly descends into a very dark place. We are talking about young girls who like the dangerous side of life, they like to test their limits, they want to see how far they can go without getting in trouble. Hell, these girls are described as having “demon blood” in their veins! It’s no wonder they end up being soul mates with ‘Alien’ the drug dealing character played by James Franco.

And speaking of James Franco, wow, what a performance. I have to say the guy really surprised me with this one. I mean, I’ve always admired his work but honestly? To me this is his best performance yet, he really created a character here. When the girls fall into Aliens hands, you worry for their safety. Alien exudes true evil, they kind of evil that comes from a person who understands the hypnotic influence of words, money and power! He brought to mind a similar character played by Gary Oldman in Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993), remember that one? The crazy white pimp who thought he was black? Alien has this out of control quality to him that’s scary, but also get the vibe that the guy is smart, he knows what to say and how to say it, especially to impressionable young girls. So be ready for a bravura performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a nomination come Oscar time! In embodies his character so well it reminded me of the Daniel Day Lewis transforming performance in Martin Scorsese’s  Gangs of New York (2002). This is the kind of performance that an actor gets lost into. There’s some controversy concerning this character because supposedly, James Franco based his character on a real life rapper called Riff Raff? The full story is that Korine offered this role to Riff Raff, who turned down the role, so then it went to Franco. So the movie comes out and Riff Raff decides to sue Korine for 10 million dollars because he feels the character is based on him. Franco says no way, the character is based on another rapper called ‘Dangerous’. Controversy aside, the performance is phenomenal, not to be missed.

Sometimes you watch a movie and suddenly you know you’re watching one of the best movies of the year, and this is what happened to me with Spring Breakers. After a while I was just being floored away by this movie. The visuals are amazing, the party scenes were filmed with gusto, they don’t feel staged, they have that realism that I’ve come to expect from a Korine film, I’m sure they just filmed a real life party, you get the feeling things are unfolding in front of the camera naturally. Then there are the colors of the film which are intoxicating! Korine did things with fluorescent colors all throughout the film; the colors on this movie are loud and beautiful to look at. Kudo’s to Korine for trying something different, sometimes his films are so gritty and real, so harsh, but this one feels like some feverish drug addled dream; a different color from every pill taken in the film. The first few scenes filmed in St. Petersburg Florida look amazing, they make you want to pack up your bags on go on “Spring Break Forever”. Korine also did this great thing where he plays with images and dialog, to the point where they collide, juggling the two and making this interesting mix of dialog taking over the images and vice versa, loved that. Spring Breakers is a Korine film masqueraded as a commercial film, it’s the film that Oliver Stone’s Savages (2012) should have been, it has that edge that Savages was desperately in need of. Everyone talks about this one as “the movie with the four girls in bikini from beginning to end” and you might make the same mistake I did, mistaking it for a stupid movie, well, let me tell ya, it isn’t. This movie might just knock your socks off and become one of your favorite movies of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5   


Kev D. said...

Holy crap, I gotta see this one now! I also passed it over thinking it to be a Project X type of deal...

teddy crescendo said...

Francisco, why do you think people are still wasting their time watching this kind of ludicrously out-moded and inferior nonsense when so much hard-core pornography is now freely available on the internet ! ?.

Franco Macabro said...

If you don't know the difference between pornography and films Teddy, you have a lot to learn my friend!

jimmie t. murakami said...

Francisco, i think the key point that Teddy was making here was that a lot of people will still use "Spring Breakers" purely and simply as a masturbation-aid (those four girls are so incredible) without giving a hoot-in-hell about the story or the characters. But, as Teddy said, why bother when 'The Real McCoy' is now available on they`re computers ! ?.

Jennifer Croissant said...

Francisco, could you reply to Jimmie please, he did a make a very interesting point with regards to specifically clarifying what Teddy actually meant, i`d like to know your opinion.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Jimmie, I see what you mean, but some people watch movies for their themes, not just for watching four hot ladies, to me the four ladies where the icing on the cake in an already formidable movie.

I guess each gets what they want from a film, still, I think that while watching Spring Breakers, its kind of hard to ignore the themes the film puts across, inspite of the four practically naked girls. I guess the film is alluring in more ways than one.

But back to your "why watch this when you can watch porn" point, what I'm trying to say is that this movie has depth to it more so than porn, so I guess that's why people would watch this instead of porn.

robotGEEK said...

Wasn't a fan of this one at all. I've seen Korine's films and knew what to expect, but hoped he had grown as a filmmaker. Sure he made some interesting stylistic choices like the neon colors and chicks running around in bikini's shooting guns, but it still felt completely uneven and amateur. The handheld camerawork was severely overused and his editing choices were completely odd with the whole timeline jumping for no reason. And everyone keeps talking about these girls, but with the exception of Korine's wife, they all look like they're 15 and "not" sexy. If anything, it's Franco's tour de force performance that drives the film and makes it far better than it should be.

Franco Macabro said...

I enjoy handheld it gives a more immediate feel to a film, I didn't think it was overused, in fact, I liked how it got me right in the middle fo the action, especially in those scenes that take place in the party.

The timeline jumping thing I don't mind either, it's something I enjoy in films. Inarritu's uses a lot in his films, on Spring Breakers it isn't as strong as in 21 Grams for examples, but I still enjoyed it because it keeps you on your toes, guessing where in the story we are.

Agree, Franco's performance is what makes the movie, that whole scene where he is explaining how he always wanted to be "bad" is so awesome, but I think the color scheme and the themes behind the film also make it worth while.

These were girls trying to get the most out of life, but by taking shortcuts. Can't say I blamed them for wanting to "live the life" but they were going about it the wrong way, still, I understand their anger and desires, they are young and want to enjoy their lives now before they start decaying. In many ways, a savage response to the type of robotic, redundant society they live in. The setting of Spring Break was a great idea in my book because it represents the idea of excesss, of non stop fun, of going over board which is what the girls where needing in their lives.

As for the girls in bathing suits, well, when you think about it, it goes with the whole Spring Break thing, but of course, it's also a way to get butts in theaters, there's no denying that.

I doubt the academy will nominate Franco for this, but they should! Am I right?

robotGEEK said...

Franco definitely needs at least a nomination in a few awards shows, that's for sure.

I did in fact like the girls in bikini's shooting guns. That was one of the few creative aspects I liked in this. My problem was that they all looked "underage" and found it a little unsettling, except for Korine's wife.

I can enjoy handheld from time to time, when it's done with great effect. Few people can pull it off like Rob Zombie, Alfanso Cuaron or Jonathan Liebesman for example. I just didn't get that from Korine, but, to each their own.

It was an interesting premise, and again, with bold choices like the neon colors, girls in bikini's, gritty violence and Franco's performance, it will be remembered. And I think what most will take away from it is that it's nothing like you expect it to be based on the promotion and advertising.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, tricky advertising that in this case, in my opinion, works in the audiences favor. Most of the time when studios resort to tricky advertising to get audiences in theaters, it's because the film is no good.


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