Tuesday, July 9, 2013

BLURAY REVIEW: Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers was the first of a trio of films revolving around the shattered American dream, followed by Michael Bay's Pain & Gain and Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring.  The two latter films had truths as guidelines, but Spring Breakers had no such constraints.  The result is a fluorescent fever dream of debauchery, a hyper-color journey down a rabbit hole of aimless, hedonistic youth.  I say it had no true story to follow, but believe me when I tell you the events which transpire are not too far from the sad facts of today's American youth.  And while impossible to look away from, the film itself is a little manic, disjointed, and pretty proud of itself at times.  Parts sag, repeat, and the thin story line meanders for a good spell.  That is, until James Franco arrives on the scene and flips the entire film on its ear.

Early on we look in on the lives of four college-aged girls, bored to tears in their life on campus (must be a boring school?  That part confused me) and too preoccupied with sex, drugs, and booze to be concerned with learning anything in class.  Three of the girls, Candy, Brit, and Cotty (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine, respectively) are especially corrupted.  The fourth, Faith (Selena Gomez) is trying to live her life right in the beginning.  We meet her in a church revival group first, but the problem is she is still friends with the other three girls.  They have no interest in finding God.  Regardless of their motivations, the quartet desperately needs to get to the beach for Spring Break so they can forget about pretty much anything that happens in real life.  They want nothing more than to disappear behind bong smoke and beer cans for a week.  The only problem is, they don't have enough cash to even get a hotel room for one night.  So they do what any lost American loser twentysomething would do: they rob a diner.

The robbery scene is shot masterfully, rotating around the outside of the diner in a getaway car peeking in on the two girls roughing up the customers.  We revisit the scene from the inside later, which is unnecessary.  Somehow the girls get enough cash from a late night diner to fund their vacation to the beach and they set sail.  There is no way they could swipe the kind of money they needed from a place like the one depicted, but perhaps that's nitpicking.  Once they arrive on the beach the scenes are as expected, with copious amounts of booze, weed, sex and partying, all to an appropriately irritating Dubstep soundtrack.  This is where we first meet Alien (Franco) a, well, shall we say, an entrepreneur of sorts.  In long cornrows, tattoos, and silver teeth, Franco is showing off here.  He's magnificent, and he elevates the film as soon as he struts on the scene.

The girls get busted at a party and don't have enough money for bail.  Of course, Alien has plenty and posts their bail, but then they have to spend the rest of their vacation with him.  In a sort of hypnotic way, the girls drift into line behind Alien, who seduces a couple of them with his dangerous lifestyle of drug dealing and guns.  Faith doesn't want to stay, so the four become three early on.  From here we fall into the web of Alien's world, where a turf war is brewing between he and a former friend, Archie (played sparingly by rapper Gucci Mane).  The plot is secondary to the technicolor glow of the scenery, of the dreamlike state which slides slowly into a nightmare, and of the performance of Franco.  When he is sincerely engaged on the screen, there is nary a handful of more compelling and interesting performers.

And then there is the end, a final climactic scene that sputters and then undercuts the reality of the film.  I know there is a specific purpose for Korine to pull such a stunt, and I get it for the most part.  I just don't like it.  Spring Breakers isn't a great film, nothing new necessarily, but it is dogged in its pursuit of exposing this new generation of careless young people whose attention spans have been fried beyond belief.  It's possibly bleaker - no, check that, it is definitely bleaker - than Coppola's film.  There are moments and themes and aspects of the whole film I really enjoyed - the color palette especially.  But the careening from one scene to the next, then back and forth, foreshadowing events at times, all seems like a distraction to a fascinating film and a fascinating performance from James Franco.

EXTRAS: Unfortunately, the DVD is lacking any extras.  I would love to hear from director Harmony Korine.  But if there is any medium to see the beautifully-saturated scenery, the bluray transfer most certainly does the film justice.