‘Spring Breakers:’ James Franco Has Cornrows

I don’t know what it says that James Franco seems so much more at home in the role of a sleazy, hustlin’, cornrow-ed and silver-grill-ed Florida drug dealer named Alien than I’ve ever really seen him. But Spring Breakers, if nothing else (but actually, pretty much nothing else), restored a little bit of faith in the Franco. Maybe he does just need the right role, and maybe that role has to have neck tattoos and bad grammar.

Spring Breakers follows four raucous and restless bikini-clad college girls down to Florida for spring break. Selena Gomez plays the religious one who, when it gets weird, cries and goes home. She did produce actual tears. I was impressed. The other three girls (including another Disney vet, Vanessa Hudgens, who, similar to Franco, seems much more at home in a pool threesome than singing love songs to Zac Efron in a fake high school cafeteria), stick around and get involved, in all of the ways you can get involved (see above mentioned “pool threesome”), with Alien and his drug-fueled feud with another dealer.

The girls are reckless and remorseless – they hold up a chicken shack with squirt guns to get the money to pay for their trip, scaring the bajesus out of innocent people and running off with hundreds of dollars. Then they burn the car they stole to rob the restaurant! I just remembered that. Ugh. This part of the movie is an over-the-top exercise to show the gratification obsession, the fierce need to just be happy, to have stuff and money and more stuff. The girls find that kindred spirit in Alien, who at one point in the film, spends several minutes showing them the things in his house, listing off his machine guns and his tanning oils and his colognes like some twisted version of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. It’s a harsh depiction of the culture of ‘want,’ the society of ‘gimme.’

But the film is not cohesive. In a few brilliant moments, Spring Breakers gives up that social commentary thing and becomes a skilled parody of the drug/crime thriller. The only montage that works starts as a hilarious scene with Alien at the white piano that sits beside his pool, playing and singing Britney Spears’s, “Everytime,” and descends into a Spears-backed shooting/beating/drug-filled spree. But the movie doesn’t stay a parody either. In certain moments, the film is funny, in others, dark, and all in all, it’s exploitative and experimental.

Directed and (hardly) written by Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers is not only fairly muddled. It’s also literally one giant, poorly narrated montage. We get that it’s artsy fartsy and supposed to suck you in, supposed to make you feel like you are swept up in the spring break whirlwind, caught in the cycle of drugs and parties and beer bongs, constantly stuck and sandy and drunk, never really going anywhere. But when I say that the entire movie is a montage, I’m not exaggerating. Weaving throughout the 94-minute flash fest is an inexplicable amount of repetition of shots and of many of the terrible lines of dialogue, and it makes what could have been a visually stunning movie and an intense, emotional, breathing piece, just kinda boring to watch.

There can be substance in stylized exploitation, but Spring Breakers doesn’t do a complete enough job of reining it in and molding the pieces into a fluid film. If the point is pastiche, it doesn’t create meaning. And that’s why Spring Breakers feels flat. It’s a sometimes parody, sometimes thriller, sometimes social criticism, sometimes “Girls Gone Wild” take off, sometimes not any of that. Just because your characters are inarticulate, scary, and volatile doesn’t mean your movie has to be.

Grade: C+

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

Woah I am under freezing rain circumstances out here in Chicago, IL!! However congrats to the box office success for this film just starting oh yeah ah yeah lol!!! Beaches, raspberry ice teas, and yeah da man “Franco” woot!!! I’m so ready baby!!!