2012 Toronto Film Festival

'Spring Breakers' (2012) Movie Review

Moments of interest, but overall it's a rather tiresome exploitation film

Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco and Vanessa Hudgens in Spring Breakers
Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco and Vanessa Hudgens in Spring Breakers
Photo: Annapurna Films

It's not so much that Spring Breakers is bad as much as it isn't really all that good. It's one of those films that will likely be reviled by most, find cult status with others and get a shrug of the shoulders from the rest. I fall in the latter group, finding comedy in some parts of it (mainly James Franco as a gold toothed rapping drug dealer) and being largely underwhelmed in other areas. Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers) this movie is more of an exploitation feature than anything else and at the same time rather experimental. For as often as the lead characters are on drugs, it begins to feel as if so was Korine while making it.

'Spring Breakers'
Review
Grade: C+

Spring Breakers"Spring Breakers" is a A24 release, directed by and is rated R for strong sexual content, language, nudity, drug use and violence throughout. The running time is .

The cast includes , , , , and .

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis .

The story centers on a group of four college girls looking to get away. Faith (Selena Gomez) is the good girl and her three friends -- Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) -- are the wild ones. Spring break is on the horizon, but their lack of funds is making a trip to Florida's beaches an impossibility. Candy, Brit and Cotty are unwilling to accept this reality and, disguised with ski masks, rob a restaurant with nothing more than a squirt gun and hammer. Spring break is now fully funded! Off to St. Pete Beach for fun in the sun, scooters, drinking, drugs and a little something they didn't expect.

As one wild night leads to another, a party gets a little too wild and the four girls are arrested for possession. Appearing in court they learn they can either pay bail, which they can't afford, or spend a couple days behind bars. With no option other than jail time it would seem spring break has come to a sudden end, but a guardian angel finds their cause and bails them out... Meet Alien (James Franco).

Alien is a local drug dealer and rapper with his hair braided in cornrows, teeth covered with metal and a philosophy that "bikinis and big booties are what life's about". With that I think you get a pretty good idea of the kind of guy we're dealing with. Shortly after the girls decide to spend a little time with their savior, Faith bails on the situation and heads back home while the other three remain and are introduced to just how wild time with Alien can be... or is Alien the one about to learn a thing or two?

Korine fuels this 92-minutes of drugs, sex, guns and debauchery with a house-infused score that often thumps to a series of images of college students naked and partying on the beach or in hotel rooms. The film is one montage after another, images foreshadowing what's to come surrounded by neon and black lights. It's a theatrical rave experience minus the glow sticks and ecstasy. That is, when the girls aren't holed up at Alien's beachside home, holding guns, wearing pink ski masks and being serenaded by Alien next to his poolside piano singing Britney Spears' "Everytime".

The curious thing about Spring Breakers is that for all its focus on breasts, house music and drugs, a story of four lost girls trying to find their way is trying to break through the surface, but the erratic filmmaking just won't let it loose. Well, that and James Franco, whose portrayal of Alien makes the film worth watching on its own.

Introducing Candy, Brit and Cotty to his house where guns, nun-chucks and swords adorn the wall, Alien's bed is covered with stacks of money held in place by guns and the drugs are stacked neatly on the table. With arms open wide he exclaims, "Look at my shit!" He brags about his shorts -- "Every fucking color!" -- brags about his gold bullets, blue Kool-Aid and the fact he has both Calvin Klein Escape and cK Be fragrances, spritzing himself as he says it. He's a mad man and it's quite funny and yet it also gets quite tedious. (You can watch a portion of that scene by clicking on "Clip #2" here.)

Korine often repeats scenes and repeats dialogue for dramatic effect, but sooner rather than later you just want to say, "Yeah, got it the first three times." There is a definite draw in the way Korine shot the film, but that same draw begins to push you away. The relentless nature of the constant strobe of images on screen never seems to let up and its redundancies make what is a 92-minute film feel like it is well over two hours. A lot of this is due to the fact any kind of theme it may be trying to get across is never fully conceived and the exploitative nature of the rest of it soon begins to wear thin.

The best comparison I can seem to come up with is to imagine a friend drunk and making a fool of themselves. At first it's funny and you wonder what they're going to do next. But soon it becomes tiresome even if every now and again they still do something that makes you laugh. This movie is exactly the same way and once it reaches its conclusion you're just happy you got that drunk out of your house, even if you may laugh and have fun talking about them the next day.

GRADE: C+
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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

    Exited with expectations that I don't really know how to explain. Especially after the review. At least it's better than Anna Karenina!

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

      Yeah, can't wait for this one too. If it's what I'm expecting it to be, I'll love it.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

    Holy crap! Who would have thought Brad would be the most spoiler-tastic review? No one knew about Selena Gomez, and others kept quiet about it. =) In all seriousness, though, I would have expected this review from you, Brad. I thought you wouldn't hate it, but just wouldn't be able to get completely behind such a bizarre and insane film like this.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Spoiler? I don't think there are any spoilers at all.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

        It hadn't been announced that Selena Gomez's character went home early. That was the part I was referring to. However, I tried to make it clear in my comment that I didn't actually think it was that big a deal or anything to worry about (thus the smiley face)-just the fact that other reviews I saw avoided mentioning that fact

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

          Some people think that they were trying to make it sound like Selena's character died. Thus why they worded "who will go home early...or worse?"

    • Newbourne

      WTF? Selena has been attached to this film since it was announced. How is it a secret?

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

        Not Selena being in it-Selena's character going home early. Read my above response

  • Andrew

    I'll see this movie for James Franco alone and maybe the fact that they filmed by where I live so it'll be cool to places I know on the big screen, kinda like in Magic Mike and The Punisher

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    This feels like a Roger Corman film that would have come out in the 70's and played at a grindhouse somewhere. I can't really figure out why there has been any hype surrounding this flick.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

      There's hype surrounding the film because it feels like a Roger Corman film that would have come out in the 70's and played at a grindhouse somewhere...plus Disney stars.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

      The director being Harmony Korine definitely contributes to the hype. The fact that the man who has constantly claimed how the standard three act structure of cinema is boring, made films as unconventional as Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy, and now has chosen to make a film with ex-Disney stars and an exploitation-like plot has certainly boggled many minds. Thus, it brings a significant amount of interest to the film.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mv11391/ Michael

        Yeah i'm looking forward to this film as well. I like James Franco as an actor, he looks hilarious in this. You know of all the ex-Disney gals (not into Disney anymore since I was a kid in the 90's, just want to clear that out) both Vanessa Hudgens & Alyson Michalka are the only ones that have shown promise to me. Both were surprisingly good in Bandslam (pretty underrated little-known flick) and Alyson was also good in Easy A. Vanessa was good in Thirteen.

        Also, Vanessa has that gritty role coming up in Frozen Ground with Nic Cage. So yeah, both of them shown promise to me. Miley Cyrus is just not good, Raven was better off in TV roles and Selena Gomez hasn't impressed me yet.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mv11391/ Michael

          Also, I can't believe i'm going to say this but I used to watch Pretty Little Liars. Only watched the first 2 seasons, only saw the last episode of 3rd season. I don't know why, I think the show is interesting. Pretty embarrassed saying that but I do. Yeah, Ashley Benson is decent in that. I also think she could become a decent supporting actress down the road same with Lucy Hale.

    • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

      Not to mention... Babes. Hot babes. In bikinis.
      ...
      BABES.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        Babes indeed.

        • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

          Eeks.. who are the babes?

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            The Babes. These babes. In bikinis. You know this.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

    Kind of sad to hear you didn't think it was all that great. I'm a fan of Korine's work more than most (I love Gummo), but I do admit his films are the love 'em or hate 'em type. Surprisingly, reviews for this one have actually been rather positive. It's supposedly doing very well over at Venice and I even read one comment that said it may take home the grand prize of the festival. Plus, it currently has a 7.6 on IMDB. Still, I obviously haven't seen the film yet and can't compare your review to mine. I'm still looking rather forward to this film.

    Brad, just out of curiosity, have you seen any of Korine's other films? Also, how do you think mainstream audiences will like the film?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

      Should have also mentioned, Korine was actually addicted to drugs for many years, which explains his absence of filmmaking between Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) and Mister Lonely (2007). So, it actually wouldn't surprise me if some of his real life experiences helped play into the film.

      Also, Korine's Letterman appearances are on YouTube and they are absolute comic gold. I highly recommend checking them out.

  • Zeddy

    What's the point If there is no nudity from Selena or Vanessa? I was banking on that threesome in the pool but reading all the reviews suggest only the extras show their boobs.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AmericanNoir/ AmericanNoir

      Good Comments.^^^

    • tutu

      there is nudity from all the girls except selena. rachel is naked half the time and vanessa and ashley only get naked in the pool i think

      • Zeddy

        Only Rachel shows her boobies, tutu. The threesome scene is a washout. According to my friend who was at Tiff screener, Ashley had pasties on (gorgeous tits btw) and Vanessa is naked but it's shot in a way you can't any Hudgens goodies. Unless Harmony releases extended and unrated DVD in the future....

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AmericanNoir/ AmericanNoir

    I spoke too soon.

  • Chad Hamilton

    I can hardly wait to see this Film next year because I'm turning 21 after the release.

  • reza-hhh

    Is any sex scence in this movie!?