‘Spring Breakers’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:55 am,

spring breakers movie review Spring Breakers Review

As a whole, this makes for an audacious, yet enthralling and even transcendent, portrait of maturity sprouting from a place of corruption and avarice.

For those not familiar, Harmony Korine is a writer-director and provocateur whose transgressive films like Gummo, Mister Lonely and Trash Humpers have earned him a reputation as the sort of counter-cultural artist you either admire or despise. He returns with Spring Breakers, casting Selena Gomez (Wizards of Wizardly Place), Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars) and his wife Rachel Korine as a pack of gallivanting bikini-clad college gals.

The story revolves around Faith (Gomez) and her best friends since grade school: Brit (Benson), Candy (Hudgens) and Cotty (Mrs. Korine). When a lack of proper funds threatens to derail their spring break plans, Faith and her companions decide that breaking the law to finance their quest is acceptable (even necessary). Their subsequent pursuit of booze, drugs and general mayhem lands them in hot water – which includes Al (a.k.a. Alien, played by James Franco), a grown white man living a “black gangsta” lifestyle in every sense of the term.

Spring Breakers is the cinematic equivalent of a hyperactive pop song, blasting its way across the screen. Its bare-bones narrative elements and emotional beats progress in a straightforward fashion, but are then elevated through poetic visual and aural devices – producing an exhilarating and hypnotic sensory experience, which transitions from moment to moment with dream-like logic and organization. By the end, you may either feel as energized as though you’ve stepped off a roller coaster, or unpleasantly confused about what on Earth you just sat through.

spring breakers james franco Spring Breakers Review

Selena Gomez and James Franco in ‘Spring Breakers’

The fever dream structure helps to transform Spring Breakers from what could have been an obnoxious celebration of unbridled hedonism, with Korine serving as the ringmaster who parades his sociopathic characters around like freaks (so that audiences can hurl insults at them). Instead, we have a film that could better be described as an earnest and compassionate work – one which is constructed with a critical eye, but not so focused on creating satire as you might expect (for better or for worse).

Indeed, the very first sequence in the film comes off as garish and abrasive, but the way in which Korine continually revisits the (practically comical) sexually-charged footage over the course of Spring Breaker‘s running time suggests there is a method to his apparent madness (and it does not include titillating the viewers, so don’t head in expecting something which amounts to quasi-pornography or a flesh-show). Other editing choices made throughout support that claim, revealing a technique which, by and large, succeeds at giving the onscreen action greater significance.

Similarly, the film’s shallow approach to characterization – in combination with what often feel like play-by-ear conversations and improvised scenarios that make up the film – either intentionally or accidentally provide a biting commentary about the true nature of the world (and its inhabitants) that Korine has envisioned. While it’s neither a flawless approach nor easily-accessible, it’s engaging – assuming that you can get past the (admittedly) off-putting surface appearance, anyway.

spring breakers james franco cast Spring Breakers Review

Korine’s creation benefits from him collaborating with skilled technical artists, who provide Spring Breakers with a subtext about such problems as contemporary self-indulgent behavior and gender inequalities. As mentioned before, much of that credit goes to the Oscar-nominated editor Douglas Crise (Babel, Kill the Irishman), who makes a cinematic collage from the hodgepodge of footage made available to him (which varies in quality from grainy and erratic to polished and clean).

Similarly, director of photography Benoît Debie (The RunawaysGet the Gringo) is constantly moving the camera’s eye towards women’s bodies, but relies on unflattering angles and lighting in a way that makes that objectification feel self-critical (for example: when the main characters are lounging about a dorm hallway in their two-pieces, they look more like overgrown babies than sensual creatures). Meanwhile, an excellent electro-beat soundtrack from Skrillex and Cliff Martinez (Drive) transitions smoothly between notes of exhilaration, loneliness and affection in just the right amounts.

Franco vanishes into his bizarre turn as Alien, creating an outsider who evolves from pathetic to charming, twisted and even sympathetic over the span of a single scene (in other words: he’s more in his wheelhouse playing an oddball like Al, as opposed to the normal people roles from his recent blockbuster outings like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Oz the Great and Powerful). You get the impression he’s in on the joke, so to speak, but still chooses to deliver a sincere performance.

spring breakers movie Spring Breakers Review

The female leads, on the other hand, never rise above just feeling like metaphors instead of fully-realized (if vapid) individuals; as a result, their personalities tend to be one-note or far too on the nose (Faith, for example, is a well-meaning Christian – I’m not kidding). However, each actress commits to bringing their own shallow caricature to life, which allows them to enjoy moments of humanity and instances of spiritual growth (even amid the chaos and frenzy of Korine’s storytelling).

Moviegoers who found themselves repelled (or maybe just perplexed) by Korine’s previous work might experience a change of heart with Spring Breakers. The filmmaker’s approach is non-condescending, which allows everything onscreen to seem both ironic, and yet somehow, not at all ironic. As a whole, this makes for an audacious, yet enthralling and even transcendent, portrait of maturity sprouting from a place of corruption and avarice.

It’s, for sure though, a divisive work of art.

Feel free to watch the Spring Breakers trailer below, but keep in mind: it might not be the most accurate litmus test for gauging your own reaction (and determining where you are going to fall on the love/hate scale):

Spring Breakers is 94 minutes long and Rated R for strong sexual content, language, nudity, drug use and violence throughout. Now playing in limited release.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. I was already planning on seeing this, def going to now. Looks like a good popcorn flick that I will enjoy! Im in!

  2. Very happy for Korine to make a movie that will likely earn him some money. If it’s as weird as his other films then it should be quite fun to watch. His films never really have any sort of typical narrative structure yet they all tell some sort of story (that is debatable with Trash Humpers). Suffice it say, the guy is one of my favorite filmmakers and I’m sure I will enjoy this film thoroughly.

  3. Suppose to take another memeber of the site, to see the ‘Riff Raff’ movie

    • This movie has NOTHING to do with Riff Raff garbage ass

  4. My girlfriend seen the movie and said it was fantastic.

    “whoever didn’t like it needs to expand their minds”-her words

    “black-gangsta” lifestyle, what does that mean lmao?

  5. While I am sexually enticed I will not be going to see this.

  6. This looks like soft porn….

    • lol it pretty much is

  7. I really don’t feel like seeing a movie where its just a bunch of teens who are acting like sluts, but thats just me.

    • Right. Why pay to see sluts when I can get drunk with them for free?

  8. I saw it earlier today.. it was surprisingly good and entertaining, not to mention beautifully shot. the bits with Franco were both hilarious and at times amazing. especially the gun scene 😀
    I was expecting the movie to be a waste of time but it wasn’t. not bad

    • yeah Franco looks awesome in this role from the trailers. James Franco is the man btw. Love all his stuff.

      • me too! this role was pretty out there and he totally lost himself in it. damn

  9. If they drop the tops and I’ll see it. lol.

    I’ll wait on this.

  10. I want to see this. Looks good. Good actors. But I see “limited release” – that means I can’t unless it is in Omaha.

  11. For a full review go to: [LINK REMOVED]

    I highly recommend this movie to anyone passionate about gender politics. This movie is somewhat cerebral in its technique and the meaning and message are both up to interpretation. If you are looking for the next Miami Vice or Fast and the Furious this is not the movie for you. This movie uses so many art house techniques to tell this story that I never had the space to discuss. This movie is just another strong signifier in my mind that we are entering a new New Hollywood era. I can’t wait to keep having new and exciting experiences at the cinema. No matter what you think about this movie it is definitely a unique experience and something really different than usual Hollywood schlock.

  12. This is the worst movie i have ever seen I my, life i drove 1 hour and payed 20$ im pissed and I use to like selena gomez now I don’t

  13. Why did this get higher than olympus has fallen

  14. This was one of the worst movies I have ever seen, there was no point of it and I walked out.

  15. Badass movie. Whoever disagress, is probably old, has kids, or hates their life and they are jealous. This movie is pretty much showing you Exactly what happens during spring break. I loved it.

  16. This is one of the worst movies ever. So disappointed on how Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco & Vanessa Hudgens would agree to do this movie. They are such amazing actors. Sucha disgrace. Don’t waste your money. There’s is no plot & everything is constantly repeated. I was cracking up the whole time on how ridiculous it was.

    • thanks for the hesds up. I was planning on seeing it but now I dont want to.

    • IT’S A MOVIE! Not real life. Take a chill pill. These roles as actors/actresses just help show their versatility and expand to different audiences. It shows what type of characters they can play and how well they can do it. James Franco is amazing and this is just more proof to that. You should not criticize the man for doing his job, just for choosing a role that you do not approve of. I absolutely do NOT approve of the behavior that went on during this movie either. That being said, and the fact that it is FICTION and I know that, this was a great piece of art and good film for those who enjoy these type of movies..

  17. I really enjoyed this film. If you go watch this just because you like any of the girl actresses, then you will not like this film. What people need to realize is that these girls are acting, being in a film like this can only help their career.

    I am reading a lot of things saying that the movie is too over the top, and that it is disrespectful in ways. In my mind, that was the point Korine wanted to get across. Some people are just so ridiculous and act like that at something like spring break.

    James Franco was unbelievable in this role. He is unrecognizable as he completely changes into this weird character.

    I feel like Selena Gomez struggled greatly in this role. She looked like someone trying to act, rather than actually becoming a character. Although, I do respect her for taking on a role like this, and I am very interested to see what she does in the future.

  18. Korine doesn’t tell traditional narratives and he is most definitely an acquired taste. If you want an idea of what his films are like go watch Gummo. You’ll either hate it or be oddly intrigued by it. Korine’s films, to me, are so strange and so different that I can’t help but watch. He has a very unique vision and is definitely not someone who could ever have mass appeal. That said, the willingness of A-list actors to work with him shows that he is just getting started.

  19. Maturity sprouting ????

  20. The movie needed to be more coherent. Yes, yes, I realize the incoherent dizziness of style was meant to reflect the out of control nature of the proceedings and would actually have been effective had there been some point/counterpoint to balance it. It is a fascinating film all the same and I believe might seem better after multiple viewings. Franco is outrageously good here and attones for the bland performance he gave in Oz. Don’t recommend it to the popcorn crowd.

  21. i saw this movie theater in a window of a store while waiting in line to see a midnight showing of the room. Until i realized it says “Selina gomez” and the movie poster had a R rating, I thought it was some kind of women’s underwear advertisement.

  22. I james franco, great actor,but i cant shake this feeling, i want to punch him in the face really hard.

  23. So looking forward to seeing this one at the cinema i really cant wait for it to happen

  24. I’m just a law abiding, tax paying senior citizen, watching this film for political purposes.


  26. francos