Tuesday, August 06, 2013
Posted by Courtney Small
Hustle & Flow's Djay had it all wrong. It is not "hard out here for a pimp", but rather the real hardship is being part of the entitlement generation. At least that is what films like The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers have taught us this year. If we are to believe the characters in Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, living an ordinary life is a fate almost as bad as death itself.
Think about it. Dealing with going to college and having parents who are concerned about your well-being sounds downright dreadful. Fortunately, there is a cure from the drudgery of everyday life. A utopian paradise known as spring break where heaven and earth meet. It is a spiritual place where one can truly find themselves. Well that is how life-long friends, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) see it at least. Drowning in the boredom of life at college, the girls are willing to do anything, even if it is criminal, to ensure that their spring break is the best ever.
Realizing early on that they do not have enough money to even cover the bus ride to spring break, Candy, Brit and Cotty devise a plan to commit a robbery. Armed with a sledgehammer, realistic looking water pistols, and balaclavas the girls manage to successfully hold up a local restaurant. Despite not approving of the methods in which they acquired the money Faith, a devout Christian, cannot help but decide that the ends justify the means once she experiences the non-stop party of spring break.
Of course, all good things must come to an end when a narcotics bust at a party lands the girls in jail. Though no drugs were in their possession, the girls find themselves in a pickle when they cannot pay bail. Fortunately, their knight in shining armour arrives in the form of Alien (James Franco), a corn-rowed drug dealer and wannabe rapper. Claiming to be merely a Good Samaritan, Alien clearly has ulterior motives in mind. Part of which involves a growing feud with Archie (Gucci Man), a rival drug dealer who used to be Alien's best friend.
Although dressed up like a mindless ode to girls-gone-wild debauchery on the surface, Spring Breakers is actually a subversive take on youth culture. Korine establishes a world in which spirituality is not found in a college church group, but in the overflowing liquor and topless nubile bodies of spring break. It is a mythical land where males show their softer side by knowing the lyrics to Britney Spears songs. Spring break is a place where people find themselves and criminal activity, such as drug use and armed robbery, is justifiable as long as you are of the fairer skin tone.
Korine is quick to point out that this utopia only exists for a certain selection of people who are, for the most part, predominantly white. The film takes a completely different tone when the girls spend time in the "hood" of St. Petersburg, Florida with Alien. The only naked women to be found in this section are in the strip clubs. There are no scooters for the girls to rent, only dirt-bikes on which locals do tricks on the street. It is only in this urban setting that Faith magically seems to find her morals again and immediately pleads for the rest of the girls to leave with her. You see it is only acceptable to be wild and act tough if you are in comfortable, read white, surroundings.
As much as Alien takes pride in being the only "white boy" from his hood, even he displays some hesitation in the face of a real gangster like Archie. Despite bragging about all the money and weapons he has, not to mention having the film Scarface playing on repeat in his mansion, Alien’s inherent fear often betrays his bravado. Of course Alien himself is nothing more than a parody of the gangsters portrayed in rap videos. Instead of arming himself with several of his war grade fire arms, Alien charges into battle with a hand gun and two bikini-clad women each holding a hand gun and wearing pink balaclavas with unicorns on them. Not necessarily the best resources to take down a drug kingpin.
It is moments like these that remind us that Spring Breakers is not to be taken too seriously. Part satire on youth culture, part gangster film, Korine crafts a film that is uneven as it is entertaining. The sharp tonal shifts are bound to put off some, but it actually added a very interesting layer to the film overall. The performances from the cast are solid, but it is James Franco who steals the show as Alien. Unlike the four female leads, whose characters come off as a bit vapid at times, Franco gets to have a lot of fun as the sleazy drug dealer who finds his soul-mates within these gun-toting vixens. Though it would have been nice had Korine gone even further with his social commentary, the film pretty much achieves everything it sets out to do. Similar to one of the many drunken parties the girls find themselves in, Spring Breakers may not leave a truly lasting impression, but you will have a blast while it is going on.