Alice Hughes’ verdict on the latest love-to-hate teen movie from Harmony Korine
Spring Breakers could be described as a spectacle of pop-art aesthetics, glorified violence and objectification amplified by an appropriately hyper-aggressive Skrillex score. All this is reminiscent of pornographic franchise, Girls Gone Wild and in its heightened sensationalism, reflects popular MTV inspired culture. So, it must be perverse trash right? Well, not necessarily.
Harmony Korine first gained notoriety as the writer of Kids (1995), a doped up picture of teenage drug taking and sex. In Spring Breakers, he has returned to youth culture in a slightly sleazier tale of four wayward college students who, dissatisfied with the mundanities of their life, escape to Spring Break.
Ultimately, this film completely immerses itself in spring break culture. Rather than objectively observing and criticising, each part of the film is seduced and embraces the hedonistic delights of the spring break holiday. In its fast-paced editing, vivid colours and inebriated camera angles, the camera eye leers at and joins the girls on their intoxicated dream.
Of course, this has caused much uproar and dislike amongst critics. Many have talked of its overt sexism, unsatisfactory plot and lack of charm. Others have gone so far as to argue that it glorifies and encourages the rape culture that seems to be emerging within America. All in all, many have agreed it to be a one-dimensional, shallow, drug and sex-fuelled headache.
However, one cannot deny its humour. The opening scene is a montage of ‘boobs and bums’ jiggling to the accompaniment of Skrillex. Additionally, James Franco gives an excellent humorous performance of a gangster called ‘Alien’. To set up the film with these shots, Korine is telling us what he wants to achieve. He wants to shock, embrace and parody the spring break culture. Additionally, by reflecting the camera style of that of ‘MTV culture’, perhaps his objectified gaze and lack of plot substance is a reflexive and ironic reflection of this culture.
But you can never be sure. Maybe Harmony is simply living out his perverted fantasies. One cannot deny that it is a little odd that he cast two ‘disney’ girls into a role which is hyper-sexualised, and quite frankly, lacking development and depth. Even if he is being ironic, you can’t deny the feeling that he is fully glorifying a culture that is so heavily criticised for its destructive nature.
However, I believe that this is an interesting reflection of our movie and video game obsessed culture. There are constant references to going back to ‘reality’ and spring break being in a ‘dream’, hinting that perhaps these protagonists get stuck in their idealised vision of themselves ‘as in a movie’.
Whatever your opinion, one cannot deny that this has potential to become a cult film. In its controversy, it has a certain mystique, and that is why, love it or hate it, it is worth seeing.