Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Breakers review: better than you might think, but James Franco is really what makes it worth seeing

"Spring Breakers" opens with shots of crazy young adults getting naked, spraying alcohol everywhere, performing all kinds of hedonistic activities. From the outset, writer/director Harmony Korine blasts us in the face with this overtly sexual imagery and it continues with the constantly scantily dressed main characters. Yes, there's a lot of t & a in this film, it's kind of the point.

When we meet the four female characters (played by Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Benson), they're at college. Aside from Faith (Gomez), the other three's idea of fun is to have fun... by any means necessary. It's all about partying, doing wild stuff. Drinking, having sex, doing drugs, all of it. And what better way to enjoy all of these things but to do so during Spring Break in Miami Beach?

The girls spend the first half of the film doing everything they can to get to Miami. They find themselves short on cash at first so they decide to rob a local fast food joint with hammers and toy guns. They get away with their crime, collecting tons of money, and finally head off to their destination. When they get there, they do exactly what they came there to do: more of what they always do. But this time it's "fun" because they're away from college. They're on Spring Break! Time to get wild, do more drugs, drink, etc. The partying is endless.

But then they wind up partying a little too much and end up in jail, this is when we get to meet Alien. Alien is the white Florida-born rapper/hustler played by James Franco in his best ever role. James Franco dominates his role. Anyone who goes to see this movie knows James Franco is playing a wild character, and at first, it's "oh look it's James Franco pretending to be black, haha." After a minute or so though, you soon realize that Franco is not fucking around here. He's completely committed. His character is both silly and intense at the same time. This guy is for real. And he elevates this movie considerably, turning this into much more than just an exploration in hedonistic lifestyles.

Alien bails the girls out of jail, but for a price, now they're Alien's women now. While Faith and another girl from the pack eventually head home, the remaining two (Hudgens & Benson) stick with the hustler til the end even though it's quite obvious that only bad things will happen as a result of hooking up with a guy like Alien.

The film really picks up in the second half, it's hard not to be entertained by Franco's performance. Still, the film does not go too far beyond its base exploration of vapid women pursuing vapid lifestyles. Korine presents the film in such a way where the "fun" gets repetitive. Alien's repeated mantra of "Spring Break... Spring Break... Forever" is duly noted. Multiple times, the film repeats lines from the movie over and over until they start to lose its meaning. It's a hypnotic, effective effect, but something that didn't really catch up with me until long after I saw the film. I found the repetitiveness to be annoying, but I guess that means the film worked. If Korine intended on making me feel disgusted by these Spring Break activities, he did a good job.

That said, a lot of Korine's tactics were a bit too on the nose, he tried way too hard to make the same point over and over. Because of that, aside from Franco's performance, the film can be a tedious watch at times. Let's face it, we all know this is a lifestyle you shouldn't pursue on a daily basis. You shouldn't commit your life to such hedonistic behavior. As the film shows, it just leads a path towards self-destruction. The film's very effective in conveying this, but is this all that can be said? He could've made the same point and still gave the four main characters more distinctive personalities.

He gave Alien a distinctive personality and that character will stick with me when this film's said and done. The rest? I can take it or leave it. It's all a little too easy to swallow because it's easy to take yourself out of the action by simply saying "well I wouldn't do this." Bad people doing bad things is, of course, bad. In order to really resonate, more needs to be said.

Again though, James Franco is amazing in this film and "Spring Breakers" is worth seeing because of him. You'll have to wait til the mid-way point to see him, but believe me, it's worth it. You have to see this transformation. He's on a completely different level with the rest of the film. His commitment to this character really impressed me. Alien has so many quotable lines. You won't forget it. If only the rest of the film could live up to such a great character...

Grade: C+

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