Since Spring Break 2014 is upon us, I thought I’d review the 2012 release Spring Breakers. I’m sure all those college students who can’t make it to Cancun or Daytona Beach this time around will want to see what they’re missing, and this film give you that chance. I’m not going to say this film is a realistic depiction of what your vacation would have been like, but it is one of the oddest films you’ll ever see about any holiday.
The standout performance of the film belongs to James Franco. His depiction of “Alien” is absolutely wild. It’s a trippy performance. Alien has cornrows and gold-plated teeth. He repeats certain phrases over and over, likes to talk about all the guns and martial arts paraphernalia he has laying around. He’s a classic movie gangster, of sorts.
My favorite Alien trait is his propensity to sit at the piano near the swimming pool of his beachfront house and half-sing about what’s going on in his life. I was left wondering if Riff Raff sits at his piano and talks to himself.
More about this later, but let’s start back at the beginning of the film.
The action begins at a nondescript college somewhere in America. Four college age women try to scrape the money together to go away for Spring Break. The four friends are played by Selene Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine.
The three blondes seem more interested in drugs and alcohol, while Selena Gomez is first seen at a prayer meeting. Her role throughout the film is depicted as ambivalent about the fun and frolicking. She’s willing to take the trip with these girls she’s known all her life, despite knowing the others committed a crime for the cash to make it happen. Also, Gomez is the one most entranced by the idea of getting away to somewhere else.
Spring Break Is a Mantra
Some viewers are likely to see the pacing of the film as problematic. The frequent flashbacks tend to break up the momentum of the film at times. (Dario Argento movies seem to feature a lot of flashbacks, too.) Alien isn’t the only character in the film to repeat himself. Repetition is a major component of the film, with phrases like “Spring Break” or “Spring Break Last Forever” serving the role of a mantra throughout the film.
More cerebral types might imagine the characters who repeat the same phrases over and over to be a little stupid or addled. I think “addled” is the better term, because the director seems to be depicting people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, it might help to assume that most of the characters in the film are under the influence during most of the scenes. Watching the film might make you feel like you’re under the influence, too, and it’s my guess that’s the calculation by writer and director Harmony Korine–they want you to experience the lifestyle of the main characters, on some level.
All in all, these various techniques produce a dreamy quality throughout the film. You might feel like the whole turn of events is a little surreal. Once again, some are going to see the story to be slow-moving, even plodding, at times. Get ready for a lot of slow motion scenes of kids enjoying spring break hijinks. If slow-paced movies are not your cup of tea, then I hope you can be entertained by scantily-clad young women, because you’ll see plenty of that. Besides the robbery scene in the early parts of the film, the holiday is tame enough before a pivotal police raid that the women’s main action seems to be riding around on scooters. Once again, that’s meant to show how jarring the transition to the lifestyle in the second half of the film.
The plot does pick up when Alien appears. He’s a bizarro character by any standards. Alien (born “Al”) says he grew up as the only white kid in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of St. Petersburg, Florida, where the vacation takes place. He likes owning things and is willing to hustle to get what he wants. When he first appears, it’s hard to decide whether Alien is sinister or noble or somewhere in-between. I’ll let viewers watch and decide, but I couldn’t help but like the rogue.
Rapper Gucci Mane plays “Big Arch”, Alien’s former best friend and the man who taught Al everything he knows. While he didn’t get a whole lot of screen time, Mane did an admirable job as the heavy. The line “this is my trap” is a reference to the rapper’s debut album, but Big Arch’s voice reminded me a bit of a 21st century Marcellus Wallace.
Spring Breaker has several twists and turns you would expect in standard film about college age partying. I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers, but I have to add a couple of comments.
First, you’ll see one of the wildest covers of a Britney Spears song you’ll ever see: “Everytime” off her 4th studio album, Into the Zone. I hope future movie makers choose to include their own homages to this scene.
Second, I learned that the best way to sneak up on your opponents in the dark: wear a neon yellow bikini and a pink ski mask. This scene is choice, as is the moment in which Alien says he’s beginning to “fall in love”. I won’t give away more than that, but while I won’t give Spring Breakers my full approval, I have to admit it had its unique moments.
Spring Break 2014
This isn’t a bad rental, mainly to see James Franco’s performance. It moved a too slowly for my tastes, though I do think the pace of the film was meant to simulate the surreal life of someone on drugs. That’s just my interpretation.
If you prefer linear sequences and don’t like flashbacks, you might not like this film. If you expect an action movie or a love story by the numbers, you won’t get that here. Those who want to see lots of bikini clad coeds should enjoy this production. If you want to watch an oddball character sketch, then you should find something to enjoy.
And if you’re feeling down that you couldn’t make it to the beach for the spring holiday, then you might be comforted that you avoided this kind of thrill-seeking.
Here’s one of the movie trailers: