Monday 8th April 2013
by John Morgan - Film Fans on FB and Twitter @JohnnyM1981
Back in 1995, a young Harmony Korine deservedly earned plaudits for his screenplay for the controversial, convention challenging and groundbreaking 'Kids', arguably one of the most important movies of the 90s and perhaps the most realistic portrayal of teenage (im)maturity, attitudes and character ever seen on screen.
Almost twenty years later, Korine delves back into the world of the American Teenager with 'Spring Breakers'; a cool, sexy, visually stunning and vibrant film about four girls who take letting loose on their annual Spring Break vacation to a whole new level. 'Kids' this is not,but 'Spring Breakers' isn't without its controversies.
From the off, the inspired casting of Disney princesses Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as bikini-clad girls-gone-bad sets the tone of the whole film; an underlying and bubbling feeling of something naughty and sordid but fun at the same time.
Indeed, it is all these things. From the opening scenes of dancing, beer swilling, naked teens partying on the beach, you know Spring Breakers is going to live up to its 18 Certificate, and with gratuitous nudity, sexual references, drug taking, and constant profanity, it certainly pulls no punches.
To its credit, the film has much more to it than controversy for controversy's sake. More of a dark, brooding, thriller, what it lacks in plot and characters it makes up for in the incredible visuals, use of sound and Korine's artistry which creates a notable contrast of mood against the brightly colourful, neon backdrop.
In fact, it's the visuals and Korine's photography and camera work that make this film worthwhile.
It's thinly veiled plot, although told as a structured story, only really serves as a foundation for Korine to put his creativity and style to good use. It lacks any real drama and makes little effort to manipulate the audience's feelings towards the characters (aside from the obvious titillation).
The characters themselves are actually all quite horrible and it's very difficult to care about what happens to them.
The problem is, we know the girls want to have a good time and enjoy a period of rebellion, but aside from Gomez's character, there is no back-story to any of them, we know nothing about them and therefore have no idea what they're rebelling against, what they're letting loose from and why they're so desperate to do so up to the most extreme measures, so we're confronted with what is essentially a group of rather vulgar and un-relatable teens.
The lack of sympathy or empathy with these characters is cemented with the frankly awful dialogue. Much of it appeared to be improvised, but rather than a means of steering the plot or developing the characters, the improvisation only seemed to form an outlet for the protagonists to get away with as much swearing as they could.
It actually became tiresome hearing each of them using the' F-Word' in its various forms every other word and it only confounded how hard it was to care about any of them.
With this language pretty much forming the majority of the dialogue and because of the lack of back-story to any of the characters, any sense of identity evaporates and three of the four girls only become distinguishable by looks alone as they essentially all have interchangeable personalities (and I use the term 'personalities' loosely!)
The one character we do learn the most about is the barely recognisable and towering James Franco as the local gangster who bails the girls out of jail and develops an intimately sexual and spiritual bond with them.
Again, though, he is not likeable and when we learn of his rivalry with another gangster and the impending showdown between them, it's difficult to root for him.
Most of his lines also felt improvised and he'd use twenty when two would do, interspersed regularly with similar profanity to the point that, despite an impressive screen presence, I felt like yelling at the screen for him to stop talking.
A particular scene involving Franco being somewhat intimate with Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and a couple of handguns was just excruciatingly cringe-worthy.
But, despite all this, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen thanks to Korine's brilliant crafting of hypnotic, neon-lit action and specifically employed sound effects.
Every scene looked different to the one before it, every change of scene marked with the sound of a gunshot or barrel pump, repeated samples of earlier dialogue play over and over forming a spiralling, translucent state of mind which embodies the entire feeling of losing control and effectively, puts the audience into the mindset of the characters and the essence of what Spring Break itself is all about and what it means to its revellers.
This is not to accuse Korine of being a one-trick-pony; it's not all fancy editing and camera trickery. He's clearly gifted with the camera and utilises it perfectly for every scene. One scene in particular depicting a diner robbery is just exquisitely shot.
Utterly resplendent on the eye, this is a visual treat but sadly, it's let down too much by the lack of thought into the screenplay and the characters.
Breaking conventions with the casting is not enough to make the audience care about the protagonists and as a result, the film ultimately loses out on its attempts to be taken seriously as a coherent story.
Whereas 'Kids' delivered an important message and made the whole world take notice, Spring Breakers has nothing to say but offers plenty to see.
3 out of 5
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