Is 'Spring Breakers' Worthy of the Hate? Does It Require a Defense?

Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgeons and Rachel Korine in Spring Breakers
Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgeons and Rachel Korine in Spring Breakers
Photo: A24

Come on, what are we really talking about here? For anyone wondering why Spring Breakers is doing so well in theaters you only need to look at that image above. After premiering in three theaters two weeks ago and racking up $87,667 per screen and ultimately pulling in approximately $5 million this past weekend as it expanded to 1,104 theaters many are looking for answers or at least a chance to be part of the conversation, which brings me to the Huffington Post Live (via HE) video at the bottom of this post.

MSN's Glenn Kenny and Huffington's Chris Rosen discuss the film with moderator Ricky Camilleri accompanied by a brief interjection from The Inquisitir's Niki Cruz and an ultimate takeover by director William Friedkin, but when you start hearing Spring Breakers in the same sentences as films such as The Master and ultimately A Clockwork Orange, I can't help but sit back and laugh along with Kenny and Rosen. How high is the bar we are using to judge new films if Spring Breakers is considered worthy of comparison to either of those films?

Either way, considering those films are even being mentioned, it gives good reason as to why audiences are reacting so unfavorably to what they are seeing.

At one point in the conversation a comparison of the Spring Breakers marketing is made to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. Like Rosen says in the video, the marketing for Drive made it look like a Fast and the Furious film rather than the art house film it was. Spring Breakers is marketed with the same confusion and audiences are reacting much the same way. Last year, Killing Them Softly was equally slain after people went to theaters searching for a Brad Pitt-led gangster film only to find an allegorical feature on America and capitalism that ultimately received an "F" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

Spring Breakers worst movie ever TwitterA CinemaScore for Spring Breakers is not yet in, but Kenny mentions a Twitter hashtag that was making the rounds over the weekend citing the film as the worst movie ever. Calum Marsh at has already delved into those reactions, but he's also one of the critics that found ways to mine his thesaurus in reviewing the film from the Toronto Film Festival last year. Marsh found meaning where I found a theme that got lost in its own gloss and nose candy, but that's beside the point.

As for those Twitter responses, I've included a handful directly below...

Why these reactions? Well, for the account that has Selena Gomez as their icon, yeah, that is anything but the audience that should be checking this movie out. However, beyond the fact it was sold as a wild spring break film when that angle is more a thematic interlude than anything else, as I wrote in my review, it's "more of an exploitation feature than anything else and at the same time rather experimental." Yeah, "experimental", just what the kids ordered eh?

I called it a "a theatrical rave experience minus the glow sticks and ecstasy," largely due to the unhinged nature of it all, but in the end it's that tinge of art house driving the narrative structure that's going to turn general audiences off, ultimately landing it cult status down the road.

Like I said, I saw attempts at what Marsh saw and glowingly adored in his review, but I didn't think it came together the way he did, dedicating only the briefest of mentions regarding the film's attempt at a deeper meaning writing, "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."

Admittedly, I've only seen the film once and, perhaps, with an attempt at a fresh approach more of it may come together. That said, I can respect what director Harmony Korine has accomplished, but at this time I would never put it up against the likes of The Master or A Clockwork Orange or any of Friedkin's films such as The Exorcist and The French Connection, though a Killer Joe comparison may be apt.

As for the back-and-forth below, definitely give it a watch. It runs just about 23 minutes long and I had no problem sticking with the entire conversation, though someone over at HuffPo needs to tell people to stop opening squeaky doors while they're recording. That or buy some WD-40.

  • Susan

    I didn't realize there was much hate for the film. It's divisive, sure, but from what I've read and the conversations I've had with people, it seems pretty evenly split. I enjoyed it thoroughly myself.

  • loxmang

    I cant wait to see this movie. I want to see James Franco doin his Riff Raff impression. The guy is a youtube phenomenon. I thought it was pretty well known that he was basing his character off him, but i dont see anyone bringing it up on any reviews. So who knows.

  • Yaz

    Why are we surprised by ANYTHING getting hated on by the internet community. I don't know if you guys have been watching the news, but people are hating on rape victims these days.

    Hate for anything on the web should not surprise anyone.

    • Brad Brevet

      Well, I don't think we're talking about being surprised.

      • Beautifulm

        I've seen it and really liked it. I mean I wouldn't necessarily compare Gosling fans to Gomez's. If you've been a Gosling fan for a while, you'd know what type of films he involved in.

        • Beautifulm

          Sorry was replying to your comment about PBTP

      • Yaz

        I guess what I was trying to allude to is that why bother questioning whether the film is worthy of all the online criticism it's getting when everything is criticized anyway.

  • Ryguy815

    I personally thought the trailers for the movie looked terrible, so I won't be seeing this because I know that I won't like it.

    • GregDinskisk

      The trailers aren't the best judge for this film.... Give it a try...

      • Ryguy815

        Well I just rewatched one of the trailers for the film a couple of minutes ago and it looked better than I remembered, so I might give it a try when it comes out on DVD.

        • Criterion10

          I would recommend seeing this one in the theater. It truly is a sensory overload, filled with incredible cinematography from Gaspar Noe's usual collaborator and a great score by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez. It looked great on the big screen, and I even heard that it was distributed in a 4K DCP.

          • Ryguy815

            Now that you've recommended I see it in theatres, I would except it's not playing at any theatres in my area.

            • Criterion10

              Damn, that sucks. I'd keep an eye out, it may eventually play there, albeit for a short time only. That's happened to me before with films that initially weren't playing nearby.

              • Ryguy815

                Yeah, I'll keep in eye out for it and if it comes there I'll check it out,

  • Shaun Heenan

    It's because it does the Magic Mike trick of pretending it's designed for a certain audience segment and tricking them into watching what is essentially an experimental art movie. Someone involved in Dogme 95 was never going to actually make a teeny-bopper-friendly movie, but it's not like they were going to know that.

    • Brad Brevet

      Yes, probably the best comparison yet. However, it is so loaded with glossy segments and cultural "nowness" that it's probably hard to cut a trailer that wouldn't appeal to the audience that it's almost mocking.

  • Fox

    I think you'll be able to write a similar article about Place Beyond the Pines pretty soon. I've heard a lot of "OMG Ryan Gosling aaaaand Bradley Coooper, it's going to be amaaazing."

    • Brad Brevet

      That one will definitely upset the Baby Goose fans.

  • John W

    I'm surprised the reaction this film is getting in light of the fact that we're not that far removed from when Sucker Punch was released.

  • Kessler

    A bunch of kids at my school saw it and the reaction was surprisingly pretty split down the middle. Some kids thought it was the "WORST MOVIE EVAR!!" while others went, "I thought it was pretty good". I didn't hear any reasons for these reactions, but it's much more split than I originally thought. I haven't seen it yet and wasn't too interested, but this type of reaction has certainly changed my mind.

    • Ryguy815

      Kids went to go see this movie?!?!?! But I thought it was a hard R?!?!? How did they get in, did they sneak in or something?

      • Kessler

        By kids I mean teenagers. It was mainly 16-18 year olds. I should've been more clear on that because anything younger would've been terrible, lol. But yeah, kids sneak into R-rated movies all the time. You buy a ticket for a PG movie and just walk into Spring Breakers. Simple as that.

        • Ryguy815

          Yeah, I used to sneak into R rated movies when I was younger too, but it's easier for kids to get in where I live because majority of the time movies that are rated R in the U.S. are rated 14+ where I live.

          • Ryguy815

            However I believe that Spring Breakers is one of the ones that is rated 18+ here, so it really would have been bad had anyone younger than teenagers snuck in!

  • Beautifulm

    I certainly didn't think the movie was terrible, but I'm not sure if it's this brilliant masterpiece some people are claiming. I do think some peope went in expecting a fun movie about College students, but got something completely different.

  • Aleonardis

    I should begin by saying that I personally love Spring Breakers and it is a very important film. I don't think it requires a defense though. What I'm noticing, is that the most hatred is coming from the generation it's satirizing. So it's a success in my eyes. People booed when I saw it.

    • Criterion10

      What I found funny when I saw it was that among the small audience I was in, a few teenagers, who looked like they had snuck it, were all texting and talking throughout the film. Pretty ironic if you ask me.

  • Josh

    This might be my favorite film of 2013 so far, as it easily stacks as one of Harmony Korine's best films. He is one of the most fascinating directors working today and I find all of his films to have a merit of some kind. I watched Trash Humpers over the weekend and found it surprisingly haunting. I need to see Spring Breakers again, I think, to really ingest everything that's going on. I don't think it's a film meant to be fully digested in one sitting.

    • Criterion10

      I do agree that Spring Breakers is definitely one of Korine's best. I might even rank it after Gummo, although I do quite like Julien Donkey-Boy. Those are his three great films for me. I would say that Mister Lonely and Trash Humpers are both enjoyable, but don't work entirely.

      I should also add that I found Spring Breakers to be very similar to Trash Humpers thematically. The whole concept of a group of outsiders choosing to live life the way that they want to live is apparent in both films. Take the speech that the trash humper played by Korine himself gives in the film, and compare it with the one that Selena gives shortly before the characters go on spring break. The two characters talk about how boring the lives of average people are, and that they want to do something special with their lives, a life where they can fulfill their interests. Another comparison I found was that the song James Franco sings at the piano, "Three Little Chickies", is very similar to the "Three Little Devils" song played throughout Trash Humpers.

  • Xarnis

    The audience seeing this film is not its intended audience. Simple as that.

    • Criterion10

      Completely agree with this. Like I said in my review for the "What I Watched" column, I went with a friend who was hoping for a stupid yet fun teen-party movie. He found it to be completely intolerable. He complained about the repetition, constant voice over, lack of plot, etc. I also warned a girl at my school, who is a huge fan of Selena Gomez, that she should not expect a typical teen movie, like Project X, and that this was going to be a truly different role for Selena. She virtually ignored me, though after she saw it, told me that I was right.

      • Xarnis

        It's definitely a Korine movie, but it's being more widely released and seen by people who have not been exposed to his style of film making before. Even his other films like Gummo and Julien-Donkey Boy were bashed when they were released. Admittedly, this is my first Korine film, but I was able to enjoy it, because I wasn't expecting a "Project X on the beach.""

        • Criterion10

          The critics had a field day with Gummo and Julien-Donkey Boy, very unfairly so in my opinion. Ironically, Roger Ebert actually wrote a very positive review of Julien-Donkey Boy, and called Korine a future cinematic talent.

          • Ryguy815

            I've never actually seen any of Harmony Korine's films, which would you recommend that I watch first?

            • Criterion10

              I'd probably go in chronological order, so start with Gummo. That is, unless you want to see Kids, which he wrote the screenplay for. I'm going to be honest and say that his films are totally not for everyone, and while I love Gummo, there are some who truly despise that film, including film critic Janet Maslin who wrote a scathing review when the film came out calling it "the worst movie of the year". So, do approach them with caution. Plus, some of them are incredibly disturbing.

              • Ryguy815

                Thanks for the suggestion! And I'm just curious, which of his films are incredibly disturbing because sometimes I don't enjoy disturbing films.

              • Criterion10

                Gummo is pretty intense, especially since it addresses a wide variety of issues. I will quote Wikipedia when I say that, "drug abuse, violence, homicide, vandalism, mental illness, poverty, profanity, homophobia, sexual abuse, sexism, suicide, grief, prostitution, animal cruelty, euthanasia and racism" are some of the issues addressed.

      • Ryguy815

        Criterion10, did your friend watch the trailer? Because if he did, than he should have realized this wasn't going to be your typical party movie.

        • Criterion10

          Hmm, he may have watched it at one point, but not recently before we saw the film. I warned him what it was going to be like, but that clearly didn't work.

          • Ryguy815

            This is meant to be a reply to your earlier comment about which films of his are disturbing, but it wouldn't let me reply to it for some reason. But anyway, yeah, Gummo does sound pretty disturbing. I've also heard that Kids is pretty disturbing too.

            • Criterion10

              Kids is too. But, then again, he only wrote it. Larry Clark directed that one. It's worth a watch though, very interesting film.

              • Ryguy815

                Yeah, I might give it a watch sometime if I can find it at my local library. However I just searched up Harmony Korine on the website of my local library to see if they had any films of his, but nothing came up.

              • Criterion10

                Gummo is uploaded in excellent quality on YouTube.

    • joames

      No, dude, it's just not that good. Period.

      He was going for something, he didn't quite get there.

      The story & dialogue were all over the place.

      It was hard to watch, and frankly, boring.

      A lot of potential, I wanted it to be good, but it was not.

  • Criterion10

    I will try to offer up my own defense for the film:

    The one thing that really stuck out to me from Spring Breakers is the plot itself and the manner in which it develops. Korine has always been a vocal advocate for a change in cinema, for the creation of new kinds of films told in new kinds of manners. He has also stated how he tries to avoid narrative structure in his films, and Spring Breakers is a further example of the director experimenting with narrative storytelling. I found it interesting how deliberately paced the film is, and that it really does take its time with the first half, referring to before we meet James Franco. And even after this, the tonal shift in the film is incredibly noteworthy, and the eventual plot development that the film takes on felt rather odd to me in a way. Yet, somehow, I felt that it worked rather well. The film definitely has a story, or a plot, but it plays out in a such an unusual manner that it almost feels as if there is no story. It simply feels like a series of scenes, a series of montages, and I think that this is one of the main reasons that mainstream audiences are hating it.

    I've seen many people comparing Spring Breakers to the style of Terrence Malick, in particular The Tree of Life. And I can definitely understand these comparisons, but one film that I actually thought of was an unusual one: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, one of Korine's top ten favorite films. I remember having a similar reaction to that film, where I felt that there was a story that the director was telling, but it was presented in such an unusual and deliberately paced manner that it almost felt as though there was no plot development. And out of this, individual moments, certain specific scenes, or images became what the film was primarily about, not the story that the film was presenting.

    A great quote from Korine himself demonstrates this idea that I have presented, where he claims, "What I remember myself from films, and what I love about films, is specific scenes and characters." And this is what I find most fascinating about Korine, that he is not concerned with a story, but with images, scenes, moments, slices of life. And I think that Spring Breakers does a perfect job of applying this concept.

    This concept of scenes, characters, and images is something that can be seen greatly in Korine's debut, Gummo, which is virtually a plot less film. It's also his most innovative in my eyes, probably followed next by Spring Breakers. The one thing that I do hope is that with Spring Breakers reaching mainstream success (sort of), other audiences will go and discover Korine's other films. They certainly aren't all perfect, but I really think they do deserve more attention than they have previously received.

    The more I think about Spring Breakers, the more I like it, and the more I want to see it again.

  • Ryguy815

    Is Gummo free on You Tube because I know that some movies on there cost money to watch

    • Criterion10

      Yes. I will post the link. (Hopefully this is okay... If it isn't, then Brad, just delete my comment.)

  • Ryguy815

    Well, I'll have to try watching it on my computer some time because I'm on my iPad right now and when I clicked on the link it said that the video isn't available on this platform.

    • Ryguy815

      Wow..I just watched the trailer for Gummo though and I will admit... It looks interesting, however I also found the trailer kind of creepy and, like you said, disturbing.

  • Fan

    I really liked Spring Breakers. But, yeah, the audience I was in didn't really like either. There was alot of girls in my audience and a few walked out. For the ladies I think why they hate it is because it looks like it was going to be a typical chick flick, a group of girls going on vacation, everything is going to be happy go lucky, and then turning out not to be. So, I agree with you, that's probably why there is a lot of hate for this film from the ladies end. It doesn't help when there are constant close up of girls booties and then trying to sell it as a chick flick to the ladies. For the guys I think they just think it is fake or just didn't get it, there's alot of " that's dumb why would they do that, that's fake etc." It is definitely a exploitation film. Me, personally, I really enjoyed it. I do think it's worth a watch. If not for the story than for James Franco brilliant performance because it is one of the greatest thing about this film. He totally disappeared into his character. It is probably one of his best performance to date. I love the Britney Spears sequence that was hysterical!!!

  • Jack

    It's so ironic. I mean, the avatar is a pic of Bieber! It's definetely a party movie, but it's mocking these teenagers.

  • Matt Risnes

    I'm pretty late to this conversation (Ironically, I'm on Spring Break myself right now with my family), but I thought the film was totally brilliant and that most are missing the boat on its deeper meaning. Here's my post about that if anyone is interested:

  • Blue mask

    Cmon guys spring breakers is the biggest bullshit ive ever seen. I mean no story line bad actin and for fucksake no god damn logic!!!! They rob poor stundents then showing boobs the dancing to britney spears showing boobs again then boobs riding bikes and at the end they show a sooting scene in which they dont reload their gun for a goddamn single time. I want my money back!!!

  • JakeMcClake

    The movie was often misunderstood and badly advertised as girls gone wild. This was a paricularly dark movie with a very dark ending. It depicts four gilrs discovering who they are. Faith (Selena Gomez) is religeous, but has no conviction or courage and goes sexwild and drugwild like her other freinds. She draws the line when getting involved with a gangster like Alien and dissappears. Cotty (Rachel Korrine) leaves also after going gangster and being shot in the arm. Two girls discover thay are gangsters/predators, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Brit (Ashley Benson). They show they can rob, kill and other nastier things. These two are like the very worst of men.
    I am courious, was anyone cheering for them in the final shootout?
    I know I wasn't.

    The movie is unrealistic, especially in the final shootout scene, (the girls never reload, they take no evasive action, they just stroll through a hail of bullets; and without any target practice they also became the best crack shots in the world). Also just as unrealistic is the fact that the two gangster girls, Candy and Brit are always on the same page throughout the entire movie. They never argue, and can read each others minds and do the exact same things sometimes in unison. Nevertheless, I am often willing to go with it, and accept these kinds of unrealistic things, regardless of how unreal it appears. We watch movies as an escape from reality, so, I am not looking for a documentary. I also am of the opinion that the darkness of the movie probably bothers some. The bad girls get aways with murder/robbery and many other things.

    I rate it 6 on a 10 scale, The positives are that it created very vivid characters, it is a different story and the director has a very different style of movie making. The advertising, is the main problem with the movie. If the advertising and posters did not depict it as a fun movie about girls gone wild in bikinis and if it was depicted as a dark movie about predator girls (also in bikinis), like the movie "Girls Against Boys", it may draw the right audience expecting what they see in the end.

    I could probably write a better movie (a sequel) about these characters that will focus on Selena Gomez' character Faith. I believe Selena is the most likely person to deliver an audience for a sequel, if she has not turned off all of her fans, and I'm pretty certain she hasn't. Also if - in a sequel, her character was rounded and developed convictions and courage, as opposed to the flat character in Spring Breakers, this could make for an interesting movie. This is especially true if she has a battle of wills in an attempt to reform the two gangster girls. Of course it would not end as dark as Spring Breakers which would disappoint some. Also, some were so turned off by Spring Breakers, that a sequel would be considered rediculous and out of the question (those people would probably say this is an understatement).

  • Daria Morgan

    the part when the ganster starts playing the piano and singing britney spears, i mean WHAT THE FUCK!!! what a jokeeeee so sad

  • SmartDicas

    girls is hot but movie sucks

  • Kristopher Christensen

    Just watched it on Amazon and ehhhhhhhh. I worked at a video store and I'm a film geek. I appreciate a good explotation/art C movie like anyone else. The problem is this movie trys to hard to be cool. The art house shots and edited fake boobs got boring. I give this piece of crap a 3 out of 10. It drags and the ending was all Themla and Louise.

  • TerrenceBraithwaite3rd

    He, whom I shall not name, makes films as if he is a little child whose infinitely rich parents appease him and allow him to do whatever he wants. Self indulgent drivel. STOP making films. Seriously.