Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Spring Breakers

Film #506

THE PLOT

Four college girls hold up a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation. While partying/drinking/taking drugs they are arrested only to be bailed out by a drug and arms dealer.

THE REVIEW: Two films that Spring Breakers can easily be compared to are The Bling Ring and The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s not just comparable to The Bling Ring because I watched both films for my class and our professor carefully selected the films because they demonstrate similar themes. I find the two films similar because Spring Breakers in many ways improves upon the faults I found in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. The Wolf of Wall Street factors in because it, along with Spring Breakers, are highly centered around the idea of excess and just witnessing what goes on when drugs occupy much of the screen time.

The Bling Ring is a film that follows a group of teenage kids robbing celebrity homes due to an obsession they have with fashion and status. Spring Breakers is a film that follows a group of college-age kids partying on spring break due to an obsession with “finding themselves” and just plain ol’ having a good time. Obsession is the strong link between the two films and there’s many of parallels that can be drawn. Even the overall tone feels the same, albeit darker in Spring Breakers due to an increased drug use and violence.

My complaint about The Bling Ring was its snail’s pace, repetition, and all-around boredom. Coppola’s purpose/intent behind that decision was to depict the kids’ actions as something not to be emulated. I would argue that Harmony Korine does a similar thing with Spring Breakers. Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine), and Faith (Selena Gomez) seem to enjoy themselves more, but the underlying emotion — and their eventual decisions — are to stop and get out as the spring break lifestyle proves to be too much. Where Spring Breakers succeeds though is in conveying this idea in a much more palatable way to the audience. It’s exactly what I proposed as a solution to my complaint about The Bling Ring: “you can still make an exciting movie while still making the characters’ actions boring”. Spring Breakers did exactly that and doing so kept me entertained for the duration of the film.

However, I still have my fair share of complaints and grievances about this film and this is where my comparison to The Wolf of Wall Street comes into play. In Spring Breakers there is almost no story or arc that the film follows. Conflict does rise and we reach a climax at the end of the film, but that’s more due to the pacing and tempo of the film rather than any story elements. A bigger complaint is with the characters and how they are not developed at all. Besides Faith, I knew none of the other girls names and could barely differentiate between who is who. Even Faith, the only semi-relatable character in the entire film, is distant and barely given a chance to make that connection with the audience. By the halfway point, she leaves and takes a bus back home, never to be seen again1. Cotty also just disappears at one point — the scene where Candy and Brit are fooling around with Alien (James Franco) and his “toys” — before returning out of the blue, just to end up taking the same path Faith does.

So how does all that relate to The Wolf of Wall Street. Well, both films are demonstrations of excess and what happens when things are taken to extremes. The Wolf of Wall Street is was about wealthy stockbrokers and their lavish lifestyles. The story was in many ways secondary to just witness a documentary-of-sorts of just how crazy, wild, and out-of-control Jordan Belfort and his friends got. There wasn’t much point to the film other than to show what a certain lifestyle is like. Same thing with Spring Breakers, only in this case it is about college-age kids partying, specifically at spring break. My professor kept noting this wasn’t really a “spring break” film à la Girls Gone Wild, but I would disagree. I think Spring Breakers was trying to do a similar thing as The Wolf of Wall Street did which is paint a picture of this lifestyle (granted, while also trying to comment on other aspects of society as well). The disconnect, and the reason I dislike Spring Breakers is that there is no arc, no story, no rhyme or reason to whatever semblance of a plot this film has. With The Wolf of Wall Street at least we got a clear, “here’s where we start, here’s where we end, and here’s a bunch of stuff that happens in the middle”. Spring Breakers is just a jumble of garbage that lacks direction and lacks a clearly defined purpose.

THE TAKEAWAY: A lot of my remarks may seem harsh and overly negative about the film, and while there is a great deal about Spring Breakers that I dislike, there were also parts that impressed me. Something to note is that I my feelings towards this film continue to waver back and forth as I’m presented with new ideas about Korine’s intent with the film and how the story unfolds. I included an example of just such a thought in a footnote below and it’s certainly not the only example I can come up with. While I can’t necessarily recommend you watch Spring Breakers, I also wouldn’t try to stop you from watching it either. This is a case though where watching the trailer won’t help with making your decision.

THE RATING: 3 out of 5

  1. This is one of the moments I’m conflicted about and keep wavering on my thoughts. On the one hand, I thought it took guts and was a bold move to get rid of a main character halfway through the movie, à la Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. On the other hand, the only semi-good character left and created problems with the remainder of the film.