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Film Review: Spring Breakers (2013)

By Bill Boyle


Spring Breakers is a goddamn beautiful movie. Typical spring break nonsense subverted at every turn. What Harmony Korine does with colors. The sound editing. Franco, as Alien, giving a balls-out performance from Gary Oldman’s True Romance playbook. The harsh contrast of the girls calling their grandmothers while nightmarish scenes unfold in montage: hotel rooms and beaches full of demonic spring breakers, baring breasts, blowing lines, drinking, dancing, something like Heironymus Bosch’s hellscapes for the Jersey Shore generation. And the robbery! Doesn’t get better than the robbery. Korine’s influence here is Joseph H. Lewis’s Gun Crazy. The camera stays in the car while the girls rob a chicken shack to finance their trip. It swirls around, dreamily, while we catch glimpses through the windows of the masked girls smashing things with hammers.

It's a crime movie, sure, and one of the best I’ve seen recently (precisely because it’s unpredictable and willing to go places that other films won't), but it’s about other things too: religion and fear and identity and derangement and voyeurism. It gives you a cherry soda, three or four maraschinos swirling in the fizz, only to smash you over the head with a bottle of Heaven Hill. Just as in Bosch’s hellscapes, human figures have lost all of their eroticism here. The girls are forever in their bikinis and it’s merely a physical representation of their distress, their lostness. Korine is innovative in his vision of spectacle, as well. If Spring Breakers pisses you off, it’s probably because you want it to be something else, something easy and dumb. Really, though, it’s about a world burning from the edges in. It succeeds (where other films before it have failed miserably) in making a statement about the eerie brightness of the neon American Dream. It tears open that brightness. It shows us the blood of that brightness.

Bill Boyle is from Brooklyn, NY and lives in Oxford, MS. His first novel, Gravesend, is forthcoming from Broken River Books. His writing has appeared in The RumpusL.A. Review of BooksSalonVol. 1 BrooklynHobartOut of the GutterPlots With GunsThuglit, and other magazines and journals. He writes about '70s crime films at Goodbye Like A Bullet