The Breakers Are Broken

Spring Breakers - 2013
Written & Directed by Harmony Korine

WARNING: The following review discusses a despicable movie about despicable people.  If you are sensitive to descriptions about despicability, I suggest that you stop reading here.  Reader discretion is advised... Mom.

Spring Breakers is a terrible movie about terrible people making terrible choices and encountering virtually NO believable consequences for their terrible actions.  The -- I hesitate to call it a story since it bears none of the benchmarks of storytelling but merely unfolds as a delirious wandering from one occurrence to the next -- thing that happens in the movie is that four stupid college girls want to go to Spring Break in Florida, so two of them rob a diner with a third driving getaway.  Then they all go to Florida and act like fools with zero sense of self-preservation, which is evidently totally okay because nothing too bad really happens to them while they wreak havoc in the lives of others.  If that's non-specific, hang in there, because I have no reservations about "spoiling" the "plot" of this back-alley abortion of a film.

I'd hit that... with a dump truck, if I know what's good for me.
It's entirely possible to hear the general concept of the film and to assume that it's going to be a fun and silly romp.  It is not.  I came to the independent conclusion that it was more like a horror story, and I've since discovered that I'm not alone in how ugly and perverse this movie is.

How do I hate Spring Breakers?  Let me count the ways...

Starting with the most obvious but least offensive element; Spring Breakers is shot in a dreamy, semi-hallucinatory style, detached from any concept of presenting a scene as a piece of narrative or exposition.  Some people have tried to claim the mantle of "neorealism" for Spring Breakers, but there is far too much evidence that any form of realism could never have been the intention of a mess this unrealistic.  The style is "realistic" the way a mean girl's Facebook page is realistic.  Yes, these things exist, but that doesn't mean that they have any sort of perspective on reality.  MUCH of the movie plays like a series of photos, shaky-camera video clips and vague, self-obsessed statements that seem designed more to convince the individual themselves that they're being fulfilled than the sharing of any genuine informational or emotional content.  It is absolutely impossible for a sane, mature human being to give any credibility to pastiches of wandering sunset-colored light smears and the leers of drunken frat boys with voice-overs about "wonderful people" and "finding myself."  Anyone with any experience in the real world MUST roll their eyes at such moments -- and the entire movie is those moments.

The similarly themed The Bling Ring from Sofia Copolla uses the detached technique as well, and why it's not as gawdawful as Spring Breakers, it's still the weakest movie I've seen from Copolla.  It works in Lost in Translation, but Lost in Translation has some heart in it, and features human beings who behave like human beings in a world of other human beings.

There IS, I believe, a case to be made for the style.  Like I said, it's annoying but not egregious, and annoying as it is, it provides one possible loophole for some of Spring Breakers' greater crimes.

The music was hideous.  I couldn't tell if it intentionally used the most generic dubstep possible as a way of making a point about the generic bad taste of dubstep fans, or if that's just the way dubstep IS.  I have chosen to conclude the latter in the absence of any evident self-awareness (self-obsession is not the same thing as self-awareness).

The characters were not JUST unlikeable, they were un-not-want-to-kill-able.  Despite figuring out early that I hated these characters and this movie, the ONE reason I watched it all the way to the end was because I wanted to see at least one of them get killed.  Seriously.  They deserved to die, and not just because I hated them so completely, but because in a real world, they would have gotten themselves killed with their choices.  This is why the "neorealism" claims are such complete horse crap.  There is not one shred of realistic behavior in this trainwreck.

There are four girls, but really only two characters among them.  There are three completely generic stupid blonde sluts, and then the one who isn't.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't use the term "slut" lightly.  This is not some Rush Limbaughian endeavor to slander mature women who are in charge of making perfectly responsible choices with their bodies and their lives.  I employ the term not to slander all women, but to define by their character and choices the kind of women who slander the gender, and indeed the species, through unexamined, undiscerning, uninformed, unaware, unconscionable actions based less on "choice" and more on animalistic id.  They want.  They react to that want without consideration.  If these characters were male, they'd be serial rapist football players and we'd be appalled by any movie that didn't see them facing the natural fallout for their behavior.  Spring Breakers instead takes the side that it's all good as long as they don't lose their scholarships.

So, we have the three generic blondes demonstrating similar character but less depth than webcam porn videos.  Even in their classes, they're fixated on getting fucked up and sucking dick.  One of the blondes is a pink blonde, but except for a couple moments, behaves pretty much as a unit with the other two -- who may or may not be twins, that's how bland and ill-defined they are.  Then there's the dark-haired one who is different.  You can tell because she has dark hair.  She also belongs to a caricature of a campus Christian group.  It's through her that we see any kind of morality, but the story seems to take the position that her morality and choices are naive, cowardly and weak, but worst of all, a total bummer, you guys!

Then there's James Franco as Alien, the drug-dealing hood who has clearly looked no further than the least imaginative gangsta rap for the images upon which he has modeled his life.  Every gun he hangs above his bed, every bottle of booze, every piece of electronics, every car and customization, every attitude he expresses or goal to which he aspires are items he mentally circled in the lifestyle catalogue of terrible hip-hop.  Alien goes to great pains to express his alienation as a white man in the black man's world he has both mentally invented, and to which he imagines himself to be a part.

He's also a racist cop-out as a story element.  He's "black" culturally, in the crassest, shallowest way possible, thus appealing to the pseudo-rebellion of ignorant suburban trash, but he's not ACTUALLY black, which makes him acceptable to the ingrained fears of ignorant suburban trash.

That said, Franco as Alien is the ONLY thing that less-than-completely sucks about this movie.  He has the only funny lines or emotional depth beyond "Hee hee, I'm so DRUNK!" here.

As bad as all these crimes are, they're but elements to Spring Breakers greatest sin.  Not ONLY is the story thinner and shittier than diarrhea-drenched toilet paper, but it simply lacks ANY sort of credible behavior from the characters or the world around them.  I'm not even holding it to "realism" which is clearly not present here.  A story needn't be "real" to be credible or believable, but it should behave in ways that make sense.  When I saw Olympus Has Fallen, about North Korean super-ninjas taking over the White House, my first impulse was to declare it the stupidest movie I'd seen in years.  Then I remembered that I'd seen Spring Breakers, which is far, far stupider.  The stupidity that they share is based on characters which simply do not behave like credible versions of human beings in any context.  One shot, symptomatic of the stupidity in Olympus Has Fallen involves multiple Secret Service agents and Marines trying to run through a doorway through which the attackers were pouring machine gun fire.  The ENTIRETY of Spring breakers is like a slow-motion version of this one shot.  It's just one long stupid sequence of behavior that resembles no human being that would be allowed off the ward without a chaperone.

It starts off with the girls all impatient to get done with classes so they can get away from all their misery.  Right away, the part of me that is older than 22 wanted to tell these spoiled little shits to go fuck themselves.  "Oh really?  You're suffering the fate of an EDUCATION, paid for by your hated parents?"  I guess some people relate to that, but nobody I wouldn't tell to go fuck themselves, themselves.  So while the blondes get themselves increasingly lathered up for drug-binging and semi-anonymous sex, the not-blonde feigns enthusiasm for some pretty farcical Christianity.

Upon discovering that they don't have as much money saved as they thought they did, the girls suffer a bout of self-righteous pouting about how much they suffer and how much they deserve to go to Florida and act out their Girls Gone Wild fantasies.  This leads the blondes to the conclusion that they should steal the money, per their perceived "right."  So the two most vacuous of the group hold up a diner with a hammer and a ridiculously realistic squirt gun and DON'T get their asses kicked, while the pink blonde keeps the motor running.  It's actually a well-shot sequence, if you ignore sanity.

So off they go to Florida, and it's just like the MTV wet dream they've fantasized about, with the booze and drugs, the so-NOW-it's-already-tired blaring music, the horny, leering young binge-aholics and all sundry creepy hangers-on that they evidently longed for.  At this point, all they're risking is drug overdose, date rape and STDs -- you know, college.  This alone should serve as motivation for people to RAISE YOUR GODDAMN CHILDREN BETTER.

All of this is presented in the previously mentioned dreamy Twitter pastiche with all kinds of moronic "I think I really FOUND myself here" voiceover.

Then during another night of raging against the machine (YEAH!), and trashing a motel room with a bunch of other similarly drug-addled entitlement brats, they end up arrested and facing a judge.  Rather than facing up to their actions and contacting their parents, they find their bail paid by corn-rowed white boy Alien.

This is where things start to make even LESS sense.  Alien takes them to a  dirtier-and-seedier-than-a-farmer's-pocket bar, where they do NOT get raped and/or forced into prostitution.  The "good" girl (AKA the not-blonde) gets very uncomfortable and starts crying about wanting to leave because "something bad is going to happen."  Now, if there was any credibility here, something bad WOULD happen, but it doesn't.  Alien agrees to take her to the airport and she's gone.

The other three remain, becoming some kind of little crime family complete with matching hoochie wear and balaclavas for their gang war on the dealer that brought Alien up in the game.  Alien believes he's found a sense of belonging with them, and they go native, slumming it with their just-bad-enough bad boy.  The pink blonde takes a bullet in the shoulder, and she decides to cash out and go home too.

This just leaves the two with absolutely no personality, which they share between them, to act out their most debauched fantasies, so strongly compelled and self-loathing are they to rebel against their poor little rich girl lives.  In a final assault on the rival dealer, Alien is killed and the two of them wander through a shooting gallery on a yacht, murdering mostly black gang members as casually as they'd piss daddy's money away at Abercrombie.

Then they drive away in Alien's Ferrari.  The end.

So I just sat through a movie of foul barely-there characters who make unimaginably stupid choices and suffer no real consequences thanks to completely impossible luck.  These are not anti-heroes.  These are villains.  Alien may have been a colossal loser, but he had a reason to be in the life he was, in the world he was.  He was born to it and made sense of it the best his limited intellectual resources would allow.  He and his rival/father figure were respectful of the rules of the game.  Then a bunch of walking text messages come into his life and stir up his whole world to the point that dozens end up dead, almost certainly leaving a citywide gang war in their wake.

And this is entertaining why?  I'm not saying there's not a good way to tell such a tale, but the shallowest means possible is not the way to do it.  What horrifies me about this in a way that no ghost or zombie ever could is that A) some people (among our younger and stupider demographics) think this is actually "realistic" and relate to characters with no character, and B) find that to be entertaining.

The only way the story MIGHT make sense to me ALMOST would be if one of the generi-blondes started drinking early and daydreamed the whole thing while goofing off in class.  That would explain a world that seems to support their solipsism, leading them into danger for the sake of fun and then letting them off the hook just because they're SO freakin' special despite there being absolutely nothing special about them.

There are indeed repetitions of the nattering postcard sentiments that the whole trip has been "like a dream."  I, personally, do no buy that this is the case, and it wouldn't end up mattering if it did.

If it were the intention of the director to frame it as a dream, he failed to lay claim to it in an adequately clear way.  A plot point with the power to change it from a horrible story about horrible people doing horrible things with no consequences to a flaky story about boring people who are merely horrible on the inside isn't something to mess around with.  As much like a horror story as it is, actual horror movies don't don't screw around on the switcheroo.

But let's say I was prepared to buy that line.  It still begs the question why on Earth I would possibly CARE, even to a greater extent than it did before.  Really?  So an idiot had a daydream about being an idiot... only it was easier than it usually is for the poor, oppressed stupid spoiled sluts of America?  Quit bothering me kid, I have better movies and drying paint I'd rather watch.  I knew a kid in the sixth grade who constantly drew tanks and airplanes blowing each other up on his notebooks, and I think he was disturbingly fascinated with WWII Nazi regalia.  His notebook doodles were a less nihilistic and better developed fantasy than Spring Breakers, but I still don't want to watch a fucking movie about it.

No matter how you slice it, Spring Breakers is a bad movie in every way possible, but some of the ways are disturbingly worse than others.  There's no "getting it" that will make it seem otherwise, unless the "it" is a frontal lobotomy.

This is a man who could have saved himself a lot of trouble.