Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Let’s Review Spring Breakers!

As the Culture Blues Intern, it is my duty to record the post-screening discussions of my editors, so that they're not required to "sell out" and write actual cogent criticism.

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We know why you're here.

Jeff enters the Culture Blues office to find Jeremiah hunched over a table covered in topless Barbie dolls, plastic G.I. Joe weapons and a variety of clothing items and accessories lifted from hip hop dolls like Vanilla Ice and Ghostface Killah. Jeff turns down the volume on the Skrillex blasting from the office iDock.

Jeremiah White:  Hey! Don’t kill the vibe, man. I’m trying to make some money.

Jeff Hart:  By playing dress up with Barbie dolls?

Jeremiah White:  No, no, no. These are official authentic unlicensed Spring Breakers dolls.

Jeff Hart:  Sounds illegal.

Jeremiah White:  If the Weinsteins can make dolls from a movie about slavery, I can do the same with a movie about girls with low self-esteem.

Jeff Hart:  They’re not even selling those Django dolls anymore!

Jeremiah White:  Great! These will become collector’s items!

Jeff Hart:  You’re still going to get sued.

Jeremiah White:  But this is the perfect distillation of 90 minutes of Spring Breakers.

Jeff Hart:  Playing dress up with dolls?

Jeremiah White:  Yeah, writer/director Harmony Korine has his stable of teen starlets (and his wife) playing characters with as much depth as these plastic dolls. They flaunt their hot bodies and try out some gangster poses during the eponymous excuse to drink yourself stupid. They’re not people; they’re pop culture pastiche.

Jeff Hart:  Was anyone expecting a layered character drama?

Jeremiah White:  I suppose not. Korine’s visual poetry minimizes plot and characterization in favor of salacious images and stylized flourishes. But for every interesting collision of pop culture signifiers (neon bikinis set against grimy holding cell walls) or sublime bit of outlandishness (James Franco sitting at a poolside white piano singing Britney Spears surrounded by three gun-toting co-eds clad in matching swimsuits and sweatpants with DTF plastered across the backside), there are 5 repetitions of the exact same shot of some girl gone wild baring her breasts. Korine’s goal is not to tell a cohesive story, but the cinematic non-sequiturs, grainy video footage and fuzzy camera effects didn’t make me feel like I was in the middle of an exaggerated, never-ending booze-and-drug binge. I just felt like I was watching something lazy and pretentious.

Jeff Hart:  That part about James Franco sounds good. I could watch that!

Jeremiah White:  Yeah, things pick up when he kind of takes over the movie about halfway through. The dominant narrative voice shifts from Selena Gomez to him, and he provides the narrative with a modicum of direction.

Jeff Hart:  And what about all the teenyboppers?

Jeremiah White:  There isn’t much to criticize. They do remarkably little considering how often they are on screen. There just aren’t many scenes for them to act in. They’re either partying or pointing guns. I guess by that measure, they all acquit themselves pretty well.

Jeff Hart:  Isn’t that enough for Hudgens, Gomez and Benson to stand out in this kind of project? Druggy parties and gunplay aren’t exactly their MO.

Jeremiah White:  Sure, they turn their images on their ear, playing vapid party girls, seductive femme fatales and seriously aggressive amateur stick up artists. These are not your mother’s Disney princesses. But this good-girl-gone-bad meta-narrative isn’t one I have much interest in. They’re just lapping up Anne Hathaway’s 8-year old sloppy seconds. The princess diarist made a much stronger impression with the bored white girl appropriating gangster poses and falling in with a dangerous crowd in Havoc. Been there, done that.

Jeff Hart:  I can’t believe you’re still talking about Anne Hathaway in Havoc.

Jeremiah White:  It’s a really good performance! Anyway, Spring Breakers is actually a lot like Spring Break itself – stupid.

Jeff Hart:  How eloquent.

Jeremiah White:  Sorry, I’m totally wasted.

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