MTV’s influence has since inspired most of postmodernism within television and film, boasting a style over substance technique for the younger audiences. What Spring Breakers has done is take that motto to make one of the most stylish films that attacks the approach. It is hypocritical in a way but that’s the purpose. This attack on it makes for a very confusing film but not in comprehension, but whether one likes it or not. This confusion is throughout but even more so after you leave the cinema, thinking about how hollow the viewing was yet there’s an enjoyment to it. It’s a bizarre feeling of confliction and affection. That bad ending doesn’t really help either.
Four teenagers are dying to escape from their backwards, boring town to the bliss of spring break in Florida. Care-free living is in abundance during spring break, giving the girls an idealistic look at life that isn’t plausible nor desirable after a couple of weeks. Yet this what they yearn for and their journey which they’re aching to attend. Dancing around in the rain, messing about in halls is all well and good but it’s no spring break and with only $300 between the three of them, they need a bigger yield. That’s when three of the four girls decide to rob a restaurant to fund their dream vacation where there’s plenty of drugs, drink and dick.
That’s one of the many problems of Spring Breakers: the girls. They aren’t entirely likeable throughout, purposefully so but when it centres around them there needs to be a grain of humanity. Only one has an emotional arc and that’s Selena Gomez’s Faith, a Christian with torn allegiances. The three others – Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) – are completely devoid of any emotions, any arc, anything substantial, anything that isn’t vain. By confronting vanity it’s embraced vanity on all parts, with fluorescent colouring on the very little amount of clothing that they have throughout the film, looking like an ’80s rave has broken out on beaches. They’re all led by the desire for materials, the materials that they want to possess to give their life more of a purpose than their town. It’s a simplistic message that, for some, may be lost behind scantily clad adorned teens.
Although the girls may be a little odd, James Franco wins that award with his best Drexl recreation as Alien, the rapper, drug dealer, gangsta. His teeth plated in silver, cornrows dropping, bad spitting while MCing a beach party, his reminder he’s ‘from another planet’, Scarface on ‘re-peat’. It’s all there to paint the picture of a materialistic, bad, madman. It’s clear that he’s an anti-idol but the girls see his possessions, his gritted metal teeth, his adoration of himself as a gangsta, as an Adonis to follow and become a part of the messed up crime world of Florida. He’s a gleaming beacon of what not to be but the girls – with the exception of Faith, in the most creepy, eerie moment of film – see it as a challenge after their little robbery.
It’s all backed by Skrillex thumping out blender dubstep with Cliff Martinez in charge of the more mellow moments of the film, making the soundtrack a highlight in the luminous world of electric blues, hot pinks and neon oranges. Banging out until the resolution of the scene is clickidy clanked by the locking and loading of a gun. Emanating a sense of terror as it happens throughout, before anything takes a turn for much more grim affairs. This looms over the stunning visuals that mix-up chronologically, colourfully flitting between moments of terror with whispery voiceover. These whispers are repeating what’s already been said and that can be irritating – the clear outline of a conversation for improvisation makes it awkward and clunky, against the grain of the otherwise flowing film. Aesthetics is the key to this film, being visually stunning with some of the best colouring around – a scene in a lecture theatre is magnificent – backed by the banging soundtrack that makes life a party until one click-clank.
Successes of the film are apparent throughout. Whether it’s the transformation of the teenagers Disney fame, visuals, soundtrack, direction or James Franco, there are pleasures – much like the drug-induced, objectification of spring break. Unfortunately there are failures that follow them around threatening to ruin the film at any given moment. Some of the actions of the girls – non-criminal ones – are distractingly questionable. Awkward improvisation ruin moments of the film by having you squirm uncomfortably. Vanessa Hudgens suffers from this problem a lot trying too hard to shrug off her image by overcompensating in most moments.
You can’t dismiss that, although it has got a message, it’s a pretty hollow viewing that’s slightly disturbing. Decorated with florid gaiety that makes it nothing more than a pretty face hypocritically saying looks don’t matter. It’s hyperbolic with hyper illumination with a broken teen society that’s been heavily sexualised, objectified that yearn for hedonistic, nihilistic lives. As feral as it is virile. It’s a lurid, lucid, dead-eyed heroin high that for all the sparkles feels a bit wasted – like the college teens.