Thursday, September 26, 2013

Spring Breakers

SPRING BREAKERS        B              
USA  (94 mi)  2012  ‘Scope  d:  Harmony Korine        Official site

Bikini's and big booties — that's what it's all about.     —Alien (James Franco)

I'm so tired of seeing the same things every single day. Everybody's miserable here because everybody sees the same things. They wake up in the same bed, the same houses, the same depressing street lights. One gas station. The grass, it's not even green— it's brown. Everything's the same and everyone's just sad. I don’t want to end up like them. I really want to get out of here. It’s more than just Spring Break.  It’s searching to see something different.

Why is this happening? This isn’t supposed to happen. I don’t understand. We were just having fun, we didn’t do anything wrong. This is where we’re supposed to find ourselves. This is where we’re supposed to find who we are. Why did this happen? This wasn’t the dream.  It’s not supposed to end this way. It can’t end this way.

 —Faith (Selena Gomez) 

Not since the feverish REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) have American audiences been subjected to such a narcotic induced dream landscape where all moral boundaries have been crossed and the pulsating techno score by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez balances the mood with a trance-like atmosphere.  A film that speaks the language of a youth culture already succumbed to Adderall and Attention Deficit Disorder, this is as much about fantasies as it is a fantasy, something of a mind-altered, subterranean hallucination about a wacked out drug and sex crazed American culture, seen through the candy-colored kaleidoscopic lens of a male adolescent sex fantasy where underage teenage girls publicly expose their breasts and consume huge amounts of drugs and alcohol while dancing around the pool and listening to large doses of pop music blaring.  This is an expression of liberation?  For some, that’s exactly what it is, a week where no one ever says no, where you’re free to indulge to your hearts content, where you lie to your parents back home about abstaining from drugs and alcohol, painting a virginesque picture of meeting nice friends while indulging in every known substance you can find.  The idea of getting wasted and wrecked is somehow appealing to young people who simply don’t know any better, who have continually been fed hypersexualized images from growing up with MTV music videos, and who never questioned the content of what they were spoonfed.  For generations spring break has always held some notion of horny teenage guys hooking up with equally available girls whose sole intention was getting laid, but in Korine’s hands it turns into a bizarre voyeuristic fairy tale of instant gratification given the exaggerated Vegas treatment, shot by Gaspar Noé’s cinematographer Benoît Debie, where it’s all glamorized and choreographed into a sprawling beach party that resembles a teenage boy’s wet dream, with naked girls awash in neon colors that swirl around into different drug-induced figures and shapes, weaving in and out of focus, becoming an intoxicated surreal tabloid fantasy.  Despite the obvious exploitation aspects, the film does have Harmony Korine’s artistic sensibility, though what story there is feels oversaturated in pop reference artificiality that simply engulfs the characters.      

Told out of sequence, the story follows the self-absorbed exploits of four college girls, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine, the director’s wife), and Faith (Selena Gomez, the only one that actually gives a performance), living together in the same college dorm, initially showcasing their shallowness by making ridiculously inappropriate sexual references during what appears to be a history class on civil rights before deciding they need to amp up their hedonistic impulses by taking a party and pleasure vacation to St. Petersburg, Florida during spring break, joining in on the excessive drinking rituals and brazenly crass sexual behavior, an exaggerated display of adolescent debauchery where women are dressed throughout in skimpy bikini’s (even in court!), often seen exposing their breasts which are showered in beer, snorting coke off of one another’s bodies, smoking bong pipes, guzzling liquor out of bottles, giving traffic passerby’s the finger, eventually becoming a comment on the vacuous culture of overprivileged white youth.  Disney girls Hudgens and Gomez only add to the portrayal of a materialistic American culture void of any real ideals, as this is a decisive break from their squeaky clean images, yet so many women in today’s youth culture feel it’s necessary to be seen in celebrity sex tape videos (Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian) on the Internet, as if this kind of exposure is the pathway to fame and fortune.  In many ways, the film bears a resemblance to Sofia Coppola’s equally bored rich kid flick The Bling Ring (2013), where kids feel right at home being part of a celebrity obsessed tabloid culture, where here they’re only following the Girls Gone Wild images that they see on TV.  Little thought is given to the exploitive nature of these images, or the troubling language associated with it, where women are derogatorily called bitches and ho’s, depicted in misogynistic music videos as little more than the exclusive property of male fantasies. 

The girls only exacerbate their inane behavior by robbing a local fast food restaurant for quick cash to pay for the trip, feeling exhilarated afterwards without a hint of remorse, where the only rule they live by is extreme narcissism, living in the moment, whatever feels good, and nothing else matters.  But in the flicker of an eye there’s an existential revelation that changes this perception, where the girls are arrested on drug charges and locked up in prison, where at least one of them, Faith, who comes from a strict religious background, begins to question this “anything goes” lifestyle as being miserable and sadly depressing, A First Look at Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers - YouTube  (33 seconds).  Faith, who is the only real character in the film, has several voiceover scenes where she narrates an overly idyllic world in a phone call to her grandmother, “I'm starting to think this is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been,” while a slo-mo shot captures out of control drinking and rampant drug use.  Faith’s dilemma of blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s imagined becomes a prominent theme, as if something has a hold on their reality.  After they’re released from jail, bailed out by a local white gangsta rapper named Alien (James Franco), the film descends into a hellish nightmare of wish fulfillment, where the girls become obsessed with black gangsta culture and the power it supposedly represents, where thug criminality is the new high, as there’s an adrenal rush identifying with the über macho actions of violent gang enforcement.  Dressed in neon pink ski masks and carrying automatic rifles, the girls gracefully dance around Alien playing Brittany Spears “Everytime” on a baby grand piano overlooking the ocean, Spring Breakers Best Scene - YouTube  (4:21), a beautifully captivating scene where pop music literally transcends the zeitgeist, becoming a poetically transfixing moment that defines the bewildering imagination of the director.  The nihilistic finale goes even further, using blatant absurdism to literally exploit exploitation cinema, turning the genre on its ear, becoming an expressionist statement of how deeply ingrained American youth have become with the excessive violence of video game imagery, where the seemingly make believe horrors depicted onscreen are contrasted by the girls calling home telling their Mom’s, “We’re heading back to school now, we’ll be good now,” becoming an oddly subversive take on the mainstream Hollywood culture that continually projects these soulless images.  Unfortunately, while mocking in tone, the film still feels too stylistically grounded in surface level artificialities, becoming something of a music video anthem for the vacuousness that it rails against. 

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