Review: Spring Breakers
***Spoilers Follow—Consider watching the movie before reading. In keeping with the loose and crazy style of the film, I offer this loose and crazy (or is it just plain lazy and ripped off from a series of Facebook posts?) analysis.
Holy wow! I loved Spring Breakers. What a stylish, colorful, funny, scary, crazy, strange, and thought provoking creation from the guy who brought us Gummo and Trash Humpers. If you go in expecting some kind of spring break comedy, you will be sorely disappointed though. This is art film territory with a narrative style director Harmony Korine dubbed “liquid.” It flows anywhere and everywhere it can at any and every moment. And the performances are amazing. The four girls are so spontaneous and fun to watch—of course it doesn’t hurt that they are gorgeous and in bikinis almost the entire movie—and James Franco is wicked cool as a gangsta rapper, drug dealer, creature of the Id raised from the depths. Oh, and it also makes great use of two songs by Britney Spears.
I always know that a movie has worked and is something interesting and exciting and maybe even innovative when I come out of watching it saying things like “it was such a weird and strange and almost random experiment in ‘liquid’ narrative with everything flowing wherever it can” but after thinking about it for a day clearly seeing how well-realized a work of psychology/mythology it was. This is how a modern screenwriter/director should make use of mythological storytelling. Another movie that had the same effect on me was the, I think brilliant, I’m Still Here.
One of the true insights I gleaned from this movie is how the hero undergoing the journey can be split out into multiple characters each being a different aspect of the psyche—four characters in this case. That only three of them are present at the robbery and only two of them make it all the way to the end with the other two hopping on the bus at different stages speaks volumes.
I wouldn’t say the girls pay the price for being bad. What’s startling is how they are left to run wild forever at film’s end. When you have four characters so closely bonded together as a group in a story, expect them to function as a composite character, or in this case composite hero. The religious girl functions as the hero’s Super Ego, morality, rules of society, etc. She isn’t part of the robbery and when spring break isn’t following the rules of what it should be in her mind, she hops aboard a bus. The three remaining girls are then cut loose from their internal police officer. The girl shot in the arm is the Ego: reason, common sense. She goes along until things get too real, too personal. Nothing makes things about YOU quite like the pain of being shot. She too hops aboard a bus. The hero (two remaining girls) is then pure Id and is free to consummate the relationship with the leader of the Id (Alien). They absorb his energy, through sex in the hot tub. He is the one from that point onward who lacks energy and confidence while the girls become faceless new super-Id creatures. Alien is then expendable and is immediately shot and killed. The girls then effortlessly kill everyone in their way, thank Alien for his energy with a kiss, and disappear into the night and the future as spring breakers forever.
Something else just occurred to me. In sci-fi movies from the 1950s to Alien and beyond, the aliens are commonly associated with the Id. So the character name Alien could be alluding to this idea. Also, Trash Humpers, Korine’s prior outing, is an entire movie where the characters exist purely within the Pleasure Principle and the characters wear masks for the entire movie. The points where the girls put on masks in Spring Breakers are the very same instances where the Id is guiding them.
And, of course, nothing is a more iconic expression of pure pursuit of pleasure, at least for the college aged in our society, than spring break in Florida.
Note: Video preview contains mild language/violence