Starring: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco
Director: Harmony Korine
Running Time: 94 mins
Spring Breakers is an American film about a group of young women who, after being arrested while on their spring break, find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who brings them deeper and deeper into a world of crime and darkness.
I was really frustrated by Spring Breakers. Admittedly, it’s a film that isn’t quite my cup of tea, but I still felt that it was a real missed opportunity for something that at times looked like a powerful, unique and vibrant piece of work. With a lack of coherent narrative overpowered by an excessively abstract atmosphere, the film is unfortunately really difficult to engage with, and as such makes for an extremely boring and frustrating watch from start to finish.
For me, the biggest problem with the film is the fact that its plot is fairly non-existent. Director Harmony Korine said he was aiming to create a more sensual cinematic experience through the film’s visuals, sounds and more, and then bring a narrative into play after achieving that. That’s an admirable and bold attitude to take, but I’m afraid that there really isn’t enough attention paid to providing at least the bare bones of an engaging story here.
As a result, the plot here can be summed up in one sentence. A group of girls find themselves in a world of dark crime while on spring break. Of course, there are some deeper themes at play, regarding the loss of innocence, the role of women in modern society and many more, but you’re not able to grab onto any of that because there’s no depth to the narrative, with the story only really popping every now and then in between the psychedelic montages.
Like I said, Korine’s intention for the film is bold and unique, but it doesn’t quite come off. Of course, simply being abstract doesn’t mean a film has to be boring, but I have to say that Korine doesn’t really pull that off all that well either.
On the one hand, there are some moments of genuinely striking drama and sensual power, with the film’s use of pop music in a very poignant and elegant manner particularly standing out in some sequences. Those moments showed me that there was potential in this film for things to be really special.
On the other hand, however, the movie’s overly stylised look, while impressive and bold at the beginning, eventually proves its downfall. The blurry neon is a really strong way to bring you into a murky world of crime that’s disguised by the fun-loving spring breakers all around, but like the film’s narrative, it’s actually not clear enough to really allow you to engross yourself in the story.
It sounds like a basic error, and while the film’s murky cinematography is of course a deliberate choice, I found it a frustrating element of the film that not only became very dull towards the end, but also created a strong barrier between me as a viewer and the on-screen characters. There’s an argument to say that that’s also a clever choice by Korine, as it keeps the characters’ ambiguity strong, but in tandem with the film’s poorly laid-out plot, I felt like things were just unclear.
Overall, I found Spring Breakers a really frustrating watch. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that I hated the film, but the combination of its rather pretentious lack of a decent narrative, and the clear missed opportunity from a bold director who could have made something so much more special and poignant, really disappointed me throughout, which is why I’m giving it a 5.1.