Spring Breakers movie review: Ski masks, machine guns & ballet

Mar 15, 2013 at 8:00 a.m. ET

This sexist, racist, classist movie plays like a love letter to reality TV, Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood phase and America’s obsession with gun violence. James Franco may as well be in Oz as a Floridian drug dealer who collects teen girls and wields giant guns when he’s not playing Britney Spears songs on his white baby grand piano. Sound bizarre? This movie is a whole lot of drunken craziness, but also has its moments of clarity and maybe even moments of genius.

Spring Breakers

3.5 Stars: Perfect for very bad girls

The movie starts with four teen girls, Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine, wife of the film’s director Harmony Korine) and the aptly named Faith (Selena Gomez). They live together in a humdrum college dorm but lack the extra cash they need to go on spring break in style.

Faith is pumped up on Jesus and the least daring of the quartet. The other girls get an idea to knock off a diner using fake guns. I don’t believe these boozy bimbettes could tie their shoes, let alone get away with a robbery, but they do and apparently this greasy spoon had enough cash in its till not only to get them to some random beach city, but also to purchase enough cocaine for all their fellow spring breakers. Tiger’s blood!

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Spring Breakers

The beach scenes are highly stylized to create a hazy, club vibe with thumping music under the visuals that pop with neon colors. More music video than narrative movie, there’s no shortage of booty-quakes, twirling nipples, and girls artfully sucking on beer bongs and popsicles.

After getting arrested for doing drugs, the girls gone wild get bailed out by a drug dealer/DJ named Alien (James Franco). With cornrows, silver teeth and prison tattoos, he’s the creepiest dude you’d ever want to party with. Faith, the story’s protagonist, finally wises up and jumps on a bus back home.

With the only voice of reason gone, the movie rises to a whole new level of hilarious creepdom. James Franco is mesmerizing as the Charlie-Sheen-wannabe thug who claims to fall in love with all three girls and keeps his wannabe-goddesses on a cash leash. Winning!

Spring Breakers

The most truly bizarre scene in the film, and I have to say the scene that won me over, is when Brit, Candy and Cotty don pink ski masks adorned with unicorns and do a ballet dance while holding giant machine guns. This is while Alien plays “Everytime” by Britney Spears on his white baby grand piano that sits outdoors, overlooking the ocean.

These images provide a warped, frightening portrayal of oversexualized, faceless femininity while the guns make perfect phallic symbols for them to worship (as if the unicorns weren’t phallic enough). Here we are in the 21st century, and harems of women are still controlled by the man with the biggest weapon. Could America really be so similar to the Middle East? Could we still really be so tribal?

The characters in this film, particularly the women are vapid party animals who wear matching shorts that say DTF across the butt, replicating the way female Celebes Crested Macaque apes’ buttocks swell and turn bright red, indicating they are fertile and ready to mate (for those of you who don’t watch the Jersey Shore, the acronym “DTF” means “down to f***).

Is this movie sexist? Yes, but I think that’s the point. I believe the filmmaker is holding a mirror up to reality TV and the unique American obsession with guns and saying, “Guess what? This is what we Americans look like.” It is scary. It is entertaining. It is a train wreck from which we can’t look away.

Bottom line: I do think there is a stroke of genius in this odd film, but it only succeeds when the thin story finally commits to its wrongness. It isn’t PC, but there is much truth in Spring Breakers — for better or worse. Happy spring break!

Photo credit: A24 Films

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