Friday, March 29, 2013

The Rite of Spring Breakers

First of all, let me apologise for the lack of updates here. Alas, as most of you would probably be aware I have recently made the move overseas so, naturally, I have been a bit busy. I've been fortunate enough to catch a few films in the brief time that I'm here and one of them - the very first, actually - was Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, which has crashed the multiplex and turned normally intelligent people into blabbers who can't seem to make heads or tails of the whole thing.

 I, however, thought it was great.

A richly textured mood piece of a film that takes its position early and run with it for another 94 minutes, most of which are as hypnotically captivating as one could realistically hope for in a film about this American tradition known as "Spring Break". Seen as a rite of passage for any good looking young American - no seriously, apart from the older drug dealers, everybody in this Florida enclave is apparently really good looking in that indistinguishable way - the film dives headfirst into the story of four particular young women who end up falling down a wormhole of excess and debauchery, much of which is quite clearly illegal. Not that they care.

 Much has been made of the film's casting, which sees three of four girls portrayed by actors known more for wholesome family entertainment than risque, breast-baring arthouse fare. What they were previously known is, I feel, besides the point. They do, however, make for some spot on casting, and alongside James Franco as a drug-dealing skeeze-ball that hands these women a very literal get-out-of-jail-free card, makes for surely one of the most perfectly cast films that we'll get in 2013. While Franco and an emotional Selena Gomez make for the best performances in a film that's filled with all sorts of weird faces that is so typical for a Korine film, it's the technical aspects that turn Spring Breakers into a fluid trip down the rabbit hole.

BenoƮt Debie's neon-lit cinematography gives the film a bright eyed hue that recalls Miami Vice if focused on the villains in a modern day Spring Break resort. The exotic colours of Heidi Bivens' costume design - all bikinis and Ed Hardy-style brand names - are exquisitely lit and make for a particularly eye-popping final scene. Douglas Crise has been given the responsibility of editing Korine's screenplay into the film that it is and he does a particularly stunning job of it. It's easy to see this going completely wrong - hell, many think it did - with random, overlapping, repetitious, and generally untraditional cuts used throughout. However, the final product is one of an almost swirling grandiosity that made for thrilling hypnosis. One scene in particular set to the tune of Britney Spears' "Every Time" has to be seen to be believed, with its juxtaposition of bikini-clad spring breakers with their phallic guns and hot pink balaclavas.

 Naturally, some people don't see it that way. This article in The Guardian by Heather Long is such a case. Yet again we have people unable to distinguish between a film showing a particularly act and endorsing it. Long's argument that Korine's film endorses "rape culture" and the idea that for young women to have the "time of their life" they must resort to scandalous and scantily-clad behaviour is both misguided and ridiculous. I can't imagine how many people could view Spring Breakers and come out thinking it endorses anything other than the unironic appreciation of Britney Spears. And it certainly doesn't "endorse" anything like rape culture. In fact, not only does the film not feature rape of any kind (certainly none that I remember, but maybe I was transfixed and have forgotten), but the one scene that threatens to do so ends with a "no" (albeit a bare-breasted no.) The film very clearly paints the paths of these girls as dangerous and worrisome, with their actions bringing them more and more pain. So much pain that this so-called "time of their life" will forever be marred by the results they crashed head-first into. Sigh.

 Speaking of rites of passage though, I did enjoy my first ever American cinema experience and "experience" is certainly a perfect word for it. Wow. Not only did a woman bring her (at least I hope it was hers) newborn baby to the cinema and let it crawl around on the ground (!!!), but two girls got up and danced during the Skrillex-soundtracked opening scene. Of course people got up and left and came back at a snail's pace, which I don't quite understand unless you're truly hating the film, which one man in particular made well known. Throughout the final ten minutes of the film one man standing in the theatre entry corridor yelled out "Spring Breakers is a lie!" repeatedly. Maybe it was his ode to the film's own use of repetitious dialogue, but it was nevertheless as bothersome as it was hilarious. Hey, at least it makes a great anecdote.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review Glenn. It's a very crazy movie, but it's central message is what really makes it feel grounded in some sense of reality where the future society, aka these kids, are fucked. They love MTV, they love partying, they love drinking, and they love committing debauchery. Everybody loves doing that, but it's become such a toll for life now, it's almost repetitive and stupid, sort of how this movie likes to present itself.