I saw Spring Breakers in theaters, back in the, well, spring. At the time, it left me with a hazy, sick, yet exhilarated feeling. I definitely loved it, but didn’t feel up to the task of stringing together a few sentences to tell you why.
I watched it again last night and didn’t like it as much. I saw more flaws, and at times it seemed actually unwatchable, with its repetitive breathy voice-overs and (frankly ridiculous) shock-value hedonism. However, this time around solidified that previous hazy feeling and I now know why I thought it was so awesome.
(Disclaimer: overtly sexual/druggie themes and scenes in movies never outrage me. When done right, they punctuate a point the filmmaker is trying to make, and isn’t that what art is all about? But just saying—if you are, don’t bother with this movie. Seriously.)
I’m not sure what point Harmony Korine was trying to make with this one, but I can let you know what atmosphere he invoked: a youthful free-for-all, the hazards of immortality, booze-soaked bright days and fluorescent coke-fueled nights. That time in your life when friendship is tight and simple and feels like forever, when you’re riding on idealism and lack of consequence. The bacchanal.
The constant parade of nearly naked bodies is almost anonymous—when faces are shown, it’s hard to differentiate one from the other. Rather it’s just line after line done off of a tan tummy that could be hers, or hers, or hers. The kids all look alike, they act alike, they don’t talk unless it’s in vague vapid riddles. It’s sickening to witness, for sure, yet when people got disgusted with this aspect of Spring Breakers, I believe they missed the point.
The first half of the movie details the (in my opinion, downward) spiral of four young female friends from an unspecified Southern college town. They don’t have enough money to get to Florida for vacation, so they: steal a teacher’s car, rob a restaurant, burn the car. (A right tragedy, since it was an El Camino for Christ’s sake.) Then they get their asses on some sort of party bus to Florida that looks like my personal living hell, and that’s when the madness begins.
Eventually, as all good things do, the party gets broken up and the girls meet James Franco in the guise of Alien, a rapper?/drug dealer based on this IRL guy. (And by “meet” I mean he sprang them from jail.) This is when things start to get interesting.
At this point, the four girls are nearly interchangeable. I could pick out only two names without the aid of IMDB: Cotty (played by Rachel Korine, Harmony’s wife) and Faith (Selena Gomez). The only differences are physical appearance and the fact that Faith is kind of a goody-two-shoes in comparison to the others, who are BAD BITCHES, especially Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Brit (Ashley Benson). When they start hanging out with Alien however, shit gets a bit too real for Faith and she gets on a bus back home. The remaining girls continue to live the larger life with Alien until Cotty gets shot in the arm (it’s tough being a G) and she can’t deal anymore either.
Something strange happens then, something that had been building up for a little while: Spring Breakers turns into a romance. Alien, an unabashed bad boy himself with a touch of gleeful innocence and pathos, falls in love with Candy and Brit and they love him back. When I labeled them Bad Bitches, I fucking meant it. They are the driving force behind every hedonistic and amoral act the foursome indulges in; simple Cotty and sweet Faith are trusting and easily manipulated—they’re caught on the wild ride solely by being in the Bad Bitch periphery. Candy and Brit devise the scheme to rob the store; they’re the ones feeding the others drugs and booze; they even coyly make fun of Faith’s sincere love for them as she slips under the muting pool water. When they hook up with Alien, there’s an oddly sexually charged yet, dare I say it, sweet and tender scene where they hold him up with his own loaded automatic weapons. It’s unclear whether they meant it for real or not—and it’s irrelevant anyway. In a moment of WTF, he is actually into it and starts fellating the gun, declaring, “I think I just fell in love.” He doesn’t care that they could have (and possibly almost did, who knows) killed him—that’s what he loves. His bad heart found their bad hearts, and the rest of the movie explodes in a bizarre, violent neon dream.
What I got out of Spring Breakers is the importance of atmosphere, and the inescapability of our own inherent natures. Faith and Cotty got out according to their comfort levels; they are levels 3 and 6 respectively on the Scale of Bad Bitchery. Candy and Brit were willing to take it to level 11; that’s just who they are. In a way, it’s a personal betrayal to deny the essence of your being. Were they being bad, amoral, evil, when they indulged their basic instincts? Like an animal, they just went to where they wanted to go, with complete disregard to anything else—and I kind of respect that.