Spring Breakers is a disturbingly funny nightmare reflection on the generational amalgamation of pop-culture bred youths. The contradictory messages, casual appropriation of black culture, indistinguishable line between fantasy and reality and the commodification of the female body all collectively make-up what the mainstream spreads as gospel. Our four central characters, constructed through acutely purposeful gimmick casting, are only indistinguishable from one another by levels of intended vagrancy. They are a collective mirror for us. It’s a neon-lit tone poem, with few actual scenes, instead populated with looped editing and audio effects (and the pulsing abrasiveness of Skrillex), a story told in repetition and doubling back, doubling back, doubling back. Its structure would have a brainwashing effect if Korine weren’t intent on distancing us in the way one would watch a wildlife program.
He drowns us in debauchery, sheds light on youth culture by indulging in it, one minute we’re horrified, the next we’re laughing. Korine shoots the four girls the way they’d sadly want to be shot if given the choice. Much of the film shows what young girls think of as ‘having a good time’, lowering themselves for the guys around them and the camera. Korine shot a lot of his footage amongst the actual spring breakers in Fort Lauderdale.They are told these are the kinds of real, authentic experiences to be cherished. And so that’s what they think.
Objectification becomes something the girls are in control of; it’s what they want. It’s part of the ‘having a good time’ package. And in the moments when they take control of their own narrative, there’s still a fascinating dichotomy between them loving the commodification of their bodies but constantly wanting to assert their control by claiming masculine tendencies. What makes all of the gender material so potentially rich and endless is that Korine never seems to be making a statement about it, so it’s all there for the analytical taking.
I’ve never seen a Harmony Korine film before this one, because honestly I haven’t cared to. He seems to me like the kind of blank-slate provocateur that dares you to project whatever meaning or non-meaning you want to in his work, claiming purposeful intent while he smugly lays back above the receptive smog. Same goes for Spring Breakers with everyone clamoring to say they totally ‘get it’, me included, as its admittedly justifiably become a springboard for a seemingly countless number of articles. It’s bizarre that a film of his is gaining mainstream attention, that people are being tricked into seeing an arthouse film and that unsurprisingly it’s often being taken at face value by the young general public going to see it, likely the same people that relish films like Project A and 21 and Over. And it’s even being taken at face value from some pundits, which surprises me because its more satirical elements of social commentary are blatantly obvious.
Does its looped structure feel redundant after a while? Sure. Do I think it’s a film that is more valuable for its controversy, resulting discussion, reflective purposes and frightening time-capsule appeal? Sure. But Korine smartly allows Franco’s much more definable and instantly-legendary Alien character to enter at the right moment and he populates his film with a few concrete scenes that every once-in-a-while that achieve something pretty spectacular. I’m looking at you “Everytime”.