Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Cinema File #207: "Spring Breakers" Review

Spring Break!!!

Spring Break forever. That's the motto of this movie, so aptly titled Spring Breakers, if only because all I can gather from any of it is that spring break is happening somewhere, and its a movie designed not to entertain, but to break the spirit of anyone who dares to watch it. This movie is insufferable, if you can even call it a movie, as I'm not entirely sure I didn't just watch someone's NSFW vacation reel interspersed with a few rap videos. Spring break forever, because you've just entered a dark pocket universe where time, sensible narrative structure, and basic human decency have no meaning.

Spring Breakers is the story of four girls who rob a restaurant to afford a trip to Florida for Spring Break, marking the beginning of what turns into a burgeoning life of crime and debauchery amid rival rappers, or criminals, or criminal rappers...or something. This may have been a cogent analysis or even a biting satire of the current teenage generation's value system, if any of it was told in a way that even paid lip service to the cardinal rule of filmmaking, which despite a wide latitude that has been exploited by many great directors over the years, still requires that however you may wish to tell your story, you still need to actually be telling one.

Where to begin? Well, I suppose before we even get to what little passes for actual plot and character development, the style needs to be addressed, as this is Harmony Korine, the director of Gummo famous for making movies that defy conventions (regardless of whether said conventions are there for a reason). First, the editing, which I think I'm supposed to take as edgy or avant garde, but just comes across as a clear attempt to hide the lack of substantive storytelling, repeating scenes and overlapping narration that is never as profound as the movie thinks it is and only serves to distort one's sense of the passage of time, not in a way that enhances the experience like in say Memento or Pulp Fiction, but purely to pad out what is obviously a completely shallow exercise.

And speaking of narration, If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was entirely possible that there might be a good movie in here somewhere that I completely missed, drowned out by the annoying confluence of mumbly dialogue and an obtrusive techno-garbage soundtrack. At times I began to wonder if the really deep and meaningful things I was supposed to be getting from all this were simply being lost under all the Skrillex, until I actually did manage to hear some of what these characters were saying, and I realized how truly vapid it all was. As if I didn't glean that already from the endless parade of skimpy bikinis, mimed fellatio, and general jackassery on display.

It all just seems so fake to me. Maybe because I'm not one of those people who ever saw spring break as an excuse for reckless abandon, I just don't get it, but watching what ultimately amounts to a Girls Gone Wild-esque montage, even as the party scenes are depicted somewhat realistically, it always seems like the people involved are aware of the attention placed upon, and are not so much having fun, but engaging in a performance of having fun. I don't just mean that in the context of this movie, but in the wider context of spring breakers in general. Are these people actually having fun doing this stuff? Are they so devoid of intellectual complexity, so unaware of the true life of the mind that this is what passes for a good time, or are they just keeping up appearances? I'd say maybe that was the point, but I don't want to give this movie that much credit.

At the same time, fakery and image does appear to be at the heart of this movie, at least in the sense that the main characters all seem to be play acting a level of toughness beyond what they should be capable of. The essential premise revolves around waify college girls turned hardcore criminals out of a need to party, and their Obi Wan is the lamest of white rappers who seems to indulge in the trappings of the gangsta lifestyle with all the nerdy glee of a cosplayer (or maybe I just think that because he's played by James Franco, who never fits into any role that isn't James Franco). Again, I might say that this was on purpose, except that their lack of authenticity is never challenged, and ultimately validated, even as many of them give up or even die throughout the course of the film.

None of this analysis matters in the face of what is at its core one of the most powerfully useless wastes of film I've ever seen. Even the Twilight parody Breaking Wind, as soul crushingly bad as it was, had a point. At least I could see the audience for it. I don't know who this movie would appeal to or who its trying to appeal to, and if I let myself believe that there is actually a subset of teenagers that can fully relate to any of this, I might just check out completely, because if this is where the next generation is coming from, God help us all. Spring Breakers isn't so much a movie as it is the cinematic equivalent of one of those Fear Factor tests where Joe Rogan dares you to eat horse scrotum, except without the possibility of a cash payout at the end of it. I watched it because I review movies as a hobby. You most likely don't have this motivation, so do yourself a favor and stay as far away as possible. 

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