Spring Breakers (2013)
Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco
Plot: Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.
Awards: Won Future Film Festival Digital Award, and nom. for Golden Lion (Venice).
Rating: R21 for strong sexual content, language, nudity, drug use and violence throughout.
“Please come home with me.”
In film studies, there is this concept called the ‘male gaze’. It refers to how the camera fetishizes the female body by zeroing in on aspects that sexualize the character. Sometimes, it is implicit; at other times, it can be explicit. In Spring Breakers, writer-director Harmony Korine redefines the male gaze for a new generation of moviegoers.
Let me call it the self-aware-male-gaze-overload. Almost every single shot in the film focuses on near naked females in bikinis. There is nudity (of the liberating sort), which is accompanied by young, crazy teens downing truckloads of alcohol and sniffing drugloads of… drugs.
Obviously, this is an adult movie in the loose sense of the term, though the marketing of Korine’s film seems to be aiming at the 18-and-above crowd. Ironically in Singapore, its R21 rating means that it is only restricted to moviegoers with grey hair.
Lame jokes aside, I feel that Spring Breakers can be regarded as a radical exercise in filmmaking, what with the aesthetically-indulgent visual style that sees beauty in the oversaturation of colours – what critic Richard Roeper called “a candy-colored fever dream”, and a near psychedelic ‘road trip’ experience driven by a pulsating soundtrack of electronic music, dance and rap.
There is no doubt Spring Breakers is a highly hypnotic affair, though depending on your cup of tea, it can be tremendously titillating or incredibly meandering. The film is driven by a Malickian repetition of imagery and dialogue, but with a strong focus on the aggressively (and sexually) charged experiences of its young and bold characters played by Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine.
James Franco makes an extended appearance in the second and third acts, giving perhaps his most foul-mouthed and kick-ass junkie-type performance ever. You may wish to rub your eyes, but you probably won’t believe that weirdo is actually James Franco.
There is not much plot, except for the premise that sees four girls rob a place so that they could fund their spring break. Save for the bewildering climax, Spring Breakers is very much a film that is intent on capturing the fleeting moments of human ecstasy, brought about by its deliberate focus on exposed female bodies in skimpy outfits.
Such is the film’s obsession with female sexuality that almost everything else gets lost in translation, including its countercultural themes of depravity, juvenile delinquency, lawlessness and masochism.
Verdict: A mostly meandering, albeit radical exercise in form and style with a fetishistic obsession with the female body.
GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)