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  • Adam Carr

"Spring Breakers" Painting a Bleak Picture of Young America

A collaboration between director Harmony Korine, the director and writer of such works as "Kids" (considered exploitive and borderline child pornography) and "Gummo" (some considered the worst movie of 1997) and two of the Disney Channel’s young stars looking for mature roles seems ripe for calamity. But the result is a solid movie steeped in realism that paints a stark picture of adolescent aspirations in America through the early Twenty-first century.

Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine in Spring Breakers
Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine in Spring Breakersand

Mr. Korine opens with a techno infused in-your-face montage of pure hedonism which is the intent of spring break bound college students. He then cuts to a serene and picturesque collage campus which could be a possible breeding ground for boredom and monotony. Here four college girlfriends, Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) find themselves herded along with the rest of the college body from class to class. Candy and Brit are uninhibited and the ring leaders. Cotty is the band-wagon jumper and Faith is the innocent God fearing Christian. Mr. Korine’s characters don’t develop through the movie but their development isn’t the point. The point is to show American youth at this point in time during their adolescence when they can taste the bounty adult freedom offers without the restraint that comes with maturity.

Spring Breakers the Movie
Spring Breakers the Movie

The four friends fail to collect the funds needed for the get away. Faced with the undesirable position of being stuck on campus, Candy and Brit hold up a restaurant using fake guns. We watch the crime from Cotty’s viewpoint as she circles the restaurant in the get away car. The scene is like watching a movie only because we are removed from the psychological violence that occurs inside. Faith doesn’t partake in the crime. She attends her Bible study class. She is disturbed when they describe the hold-up but is relieved and feels everything is all right since no one was hurt.

Mr. Korine’s filmmaking is as unrestrained as the spring breakers he films. Spring break is just what Mr. Korine has put on film -an exhibition of raw deviant behavior that teenagers exploit just before maturity and its principles are able to take root. With the exception of Faith they take their fill of the debauchery. Faith is on a different parallel. She wants to have fun but is interested in the beauty of the locale and in making new friends.

Harmony Korine directing James Franco in Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine directing James Franco in Spring Breakers

Suddenly, though, Mr. Korine makes a sharp turn and introduces consequence to the group. They are incarcerated after a police roundup. A local hoodlum, Alien (James Franco), takes an interest and bails them out. Mr. Franco gives the movie its best performance as a wannabe gangster rapper complete with cornrows and gold teeth. Alien is shallow and morally worthless but he’s an image of power, wealth and, for the adolescents, freedom. He is able to seduce Candy and Brit with his guns and money. Cotty tags along but Faith is repealed by the ugliness (Alien’s company and the company he keeps) of Alien’s world. She abandons the girls and escapes back to college.

When the girls join Alien and his quest to take over territory from the local drug lord the movie takes a turn from realism into fantasy. But it is a smooth transition. Mr. Korine seems to recognize that young people dream of power and influence and want to establish tough reputations in order to fend off trouble. But when arms are taken up and money comes pouring in through illegal means the end can only result in tragedy. Alien, with the help of Candy and Brit dressed in their bright glo-bakinis, storm the drug lord’s residence in a dream like sequence. Every one is mowed down but the two girls. Mr. Korine reminds us that tragedy and death exist in reality while naiveté carries on.


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