Monday, March 25, 2013

My Take on Spring Breakers

I must admit that I wasn't very keen on seeing Spring Breakers, it seems I could catch an STD by simply looking at the poster. Yet, after reading multiple conflicting reviews, I decided to decide for myself if the movie is any good. I went to an eleven a.m. showing at a local theater anticipating that I would be the only one there. I ended up with five other cohorts in the audience.

Spring Breakers is being marketed as an Art House film, something I like to call Artsy Fartsy because it either protrays art or artistic farts. I find it helpful to approach such movies with little to no expectations. That way you're either pleasantly surprised or not disappointed. On both accounts I found Spring Breakers belonging to the later categories. Despite my skepticism, I tried to keep an open mind. The movie has the elements of good to interesting stories, extreme religion vs. overindulgence, yet the movie never follows through. We are presented with four college students who want "penis" and to go on spring break but lack the necessary funds besides 300 dollars they saved up , amounting to seventy five dollars each. This begs the question, why didn't these girls get jobs to pay for their vacation? I suppose that would have been the pragmatic thing to do and reality really wasn't the concern of this movie. Moreover, Spring Breakers would have lost an important plot point had the young ladies opted not to hold up a local chicken eatery, but this would imply that the film has a well developed plot.

The four heroines are, Faith, the only brunette in the group, a church going good girl who wears a Garfield t-shirt to bed, and Candy, Copulate, and Curse. These aren't the characters' actual names, with the exception of Candy, as I can't remember what they were called. I didn't bother to look them up, because it really doesn't matter, all three seem to be the same person especially Ashley Benson and Venessa Hudgens. In order to go on spring break, these three mouseketeers musketeers decide to rob a local eatery, that looks like it has never seen better days, with squirt guns and a junior sledge hammer. During their midnight heist, our uncapped crusaders choose to wear lets just call them "bikini bottoms" and ski-masks with their hair sticking out from underneath, thus making it easy to provide a description (Pink Hair anyone !!!) to the authorities. But we never see these girls answer to the consequences of their actions, unless cruising around on scooters in their very same bikini-bottoms was meant as a punishment. In case you have forgotten, this felony was committed because they only had 300 dollars in their spring break fund, yet we see them moments before consuming alcohol and snorting cocaine. One might ask how could they afford to pay for hard drugs? That's just another pesky detail the story doesn't bother itself with.

I won't go further into the story since it is so flimsy we find that entire chucks of monologue and dialogue are repeated verbatim, and scenes are used over and over again throughout the ninety-four minute duration. Maybe this is a good strategy for aspiring writers, when you run out of ideas, just repeat something you used earlier. Don't even bother with paraphrasing, simply copy and paste it ,as it is. In regards to the characters, we are left to our own devices in figuring why they do the things they do. We are only told that they want to go on Spring Break. We see them talk to a parent or caregiver, but we never get a glimpse of their relationship with the people on the other side. The film's creator, Harmony Korine, repeatedly denies that the movie is an F-you to Disney despite that all the leads, including Franco, are Disney/ABC stars, with the exception of Korine's own wife who plays either Candy, Copulate, or Curse - you take your pick. The girls even give a rendition of Brittany Spears "Baby One More Time", another Disney Alumni. Why would college kids know the lyrics to a song released in 1999 - do they even know who Brittany Spears is (I can hear the reply of a co-ed: "Oh yeah. Isn't she that old chick who like shaved her head and went like totally crazy.") Again, I approached Spring Breakers with no expectation what so ever, just curiosity. So I'm not surprised by the weak female roles developed by a middle aged man. I can understand why such young actresses might see this movie as an opportunity to break their Disney mold, but what kind of statement are they trying to make? Do they want to position themselves as serious grownup actors? In that case, might I suggest a film that requires them to act. Spring Breakers is void of any meaningful dialogue to a point that I feel like the writers were too lazy to even eavesdrop on actual college kids and steal their interactions. Even the metaphors are blatantly spelled out - Franco warning the girls to be careful in the water because there are sharks waiting to prance on them - how very subtle. 

And this brings us to Mr. Franco. Those of you who know me, know that I harbor a school-girl crush for James Franco, nevertheless, my need to be objective and fair is greater and more powerful (pun intended). A review in the Huffington post likened Franco's Alien to Pacino's Scarface, which might be true in terms of pop reference, for there are many to go around (why you act spicious y'all?). Despite Alien being the only interesting character in the movie, we never get to the root of his motivation. Why was he attracted to the girls? Was it to corrupt them - if so why didn't he further pursue Faith, the least corrupted of the corp? Alien comes off more goofy than dangerous. James Franco just wasn't menacing enough. Unlike Pacino in Scarface and The Godfather, Franco's eyes remain kind and congenial. Maybe I was blinded by my Franco colored glasses, but I think the character was meant to come off as a gangster wantabe and an all out imposter (thus the comic, albeit short, rendition of yet another Spears song "Everytime"). There are scenes where you can see fear in Alien's eyes, something you wouldn't expect of the the only white boy growing up in the hood. Having seen Franco's other performances, I tend to believe these moments of "what the fuck is going on" glares to be intentional and not momentary lapses in his performance, unlike his accent that trailed off at times. But still Franco's Alien left something to be desired, as much as the rest of Spring Breakers. I would have liked to know more about the character. Why did he and Gucci fallout after being childhood friends, besides the very generic turf tug of war? But Spring Breakers does not satisfy us with any answers. Staring at James Franco's face as Alien on the huge screen, I couldn't help but think of the contrast between his appearance (which was pure white trash - I had a very strong urge to grab a luffa and scrub him clean) and that of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean who was very suave and sexy with his eye liner, greasy hair, scurfy face, and mouth grid. Further reenforcing the goofy vs. menacing debate. Dear James, and I says this with much love and admiration, if you are going to spend the majority of a film shirtless, may I suggest hiring a personal trainer, preferably Ryan Goslings's trainer. Dear Production Team, if Mr. Franco refuses to train for the role, putting him in a tank top would have sufficed, better yet photoshoping his head onto Ryan Gosling's torso isn't a bad idea. 

When all is said and done about Spring Breakers the one thing that remains with viewers is the image of gyrating bodies, an image so intense it is nauseating. Maybe that was Mr. Korine's intentions all along. Anything in excess is sickening, whether be it religion, partying, schooling, drugs, or naked bodies. I don't know, maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to digest an Art House movie, God knows I'm not among its target audience. Yet, I left the movie theater not knowing what point Spring Breakers was trying to make, or even sure if it had a point of view to start with. Interestingly, upon existing, I noticed that "Oz the Great and Powerful" was also playing at the same cinema. I couldn't help but wonder whether they intentionally placed both movies in adjacent theaters, and if so, why? I chose to believe it was a coincidence, but pondered on the contrast between the two films, the wholesomeness of the Disney family productions vs. the lewd cringe-worthiness of Spring Breakers. I pondered on the contrast in Franco's appearance as Oz and Alien, yet he is surrounded by four female leads in both roles (counting the China Girl in Oz). I pondered how all eight females character are very poor examples, wondering whether this is a testament to Hollywood's paradigm towards women or Mr. Franco choice of projects.