A review of SPRINGBREAKERS, Harmony Korine’s controversial 2012 film.
It took me a while to get around to watch Springbreakers as I was under the impression it was created for the post-modern Beiber-Fever generation. Bikini-clad Disney starlets Gomez and Hudgens flaunting themselves on the promotional pictures could have been what misled me. But, being, after all, a Harmony Korine film, I had to get around to it sometime. And I’m so glad I have. Springbreakers follows Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty’s (Rachel Korine) attempt to freely “enjoy to the fullest” their youth through the teen-party scene, while escaping from the boredom of school life. The story is pretty straightforward, and the characters, especially those played by Benson and Hudgens are rather bland and one-dimensional.
And that’s why they’re perfect. Had the characters been played by other actors, (real character actors vs Disney faces & the director’s wife) they would have been given more depth and undoubtedly, been rendered much more charismatic. But the satire wouldn’t have worked. That’s how Springbreakers works best – as a parody on the futility of the MTV club scene to which so many feel the need to belong to, in order to be a part of something bigger. The search for the meaning of life through the deafening vacuum of sound, coke and sexual degradation.
This film tears the adrenaline junkie’s modern-day American Dream to pieces without so much as a heads up. It practically spells out the point that the much sought after glamour of a hedonistic lifestyle falls short of glamorous. So despite the promise of skin, violence and music, at it’s core the film really is as conservative as it could get. Maybe a bit too much, in fact. The problem is that, ironically, the promotional material was targeted at the same sector of society the film so vehemently criticizes. Character wise, the film goes everywhere. Like Neighbors (2014), and even Natural Born Killers, (1994), the adrenaline-fuel moments are fast-paced (perhaps too much) and the lighting and color-toning leaves much to be desired. On the other hand, some other moments (eg. A slow-mo-montage involving a Britney Spears song) are beautifully executed. But all in all, the film many times feels unsure of where it wants to go.
But it doesn’t really matter – the message comes through crystal clear; The fast life is attractive, but it is wrong. Materialism may pull at us with a stronger will than old fashioned family values. Just like when Tom and Jerry’s conscience used to manifest in the forms of little angels and demons perched on their ears, Faith decides to leave Spring Break to head back home to her Catholic family. She leaves her friends with the words, “I wanna go home now. Spring break’s over. I know you both wanna stay.’ The scene perfectly echoed Michael Corleone’s plight in Godfather Part III, when he says, “ Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Most of the time, we know what the right thing to do would be. The other options are just too damn attractive.
The film comments on the desensitization of immorality – which is a pretty tough topic to tackle for anyone as morals are highly subjective. Like any other lifestyle, the gangster lifestyle these kids get embroiled in takes getting used to. Faith leaves as soon as she smells trouble. Kind of like when we ran away from what would have been our first fight. Cotty managed to leave too, albeit later on and with a bullet hole in her arm. Sometimes it takes actual pain to bring us to our senses. The other two decide to stay and turn gangster. Complete desensitized.
Watching the performances was more than satisfying. I was reminded of when I watched The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), a wonderfully ugly film starring two other equally campy (and notoriously bland) Disney faces, the Sprouse brothers (or as they’re better known, Zack and Cody).
The best performance comes from Gomez. Watching her in this film, it was impossible not to be reminded of Anette Funicello. Like Gomez, she was a Disney star renowned for her wholesome persona, who’s work was solely aimed at children and teenagers. She went on to be the main face (and bikini body) of the world famous Beach Party film series produced by AIP mainly from 1963 to 1965-66. Fun, sexy and controversial for their time, nowadays they’re considered pure camp (pun intended).
Gomez’s shell-shocked gaze once she opens her eyes to the reality of her ‘dream’ is sincere. Equally discomforting was Candy and Brit’s refusal to go home, even when it’s clear as day that things were going differently as planned. They are pained, confused and clearly can’t find a reason why they should stay. But they’re pulled in. Maybe other films handled the same topic a little bit better. Project X (2012) comes to mind. While it reveled in the eye-candy that comes with a party in pornographic age we find ourselves in, it’s focus remained realism. Spring Breakers has the most unconvincing ending imaginable. But I won’t give too much away. Let’s just say, it’s definitely marketed towards the wrong audience. Forget Selena and Hudgens. It’s a Harmony Korine film all the way.
Originally written for Eyeskreen and published on the 15th of March, 2015