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Thursday
Mar282013

Spring Breakers

Dear Brandon Thompson, Marketing Director

In Hollywood, image is everything. Get it right and it will make your career; get it wrong. you’ll ruin it.  Spring Breakers is masterfully designed to do both. The film takes a group of Disney pop stars, wrings out their innocence and runs them through a debauched teenage fantasy. The result is everything the promotional materials promise: hot girls in bright bikinis, bombastic photography, violent outbursts, and, overall, a depraved disposition. In short, it’s the easiest film in the world to market.

But here’s the thing: the movie is also really freakin’ good.

I’ll be honest, it’s for all the reasons you might think—and some you might not expect. ‘Cause you’re the marketing guy, what do you care? I’ll start with the obvious.

If I was 13 and watched this movie for only the most salacious reasons, I would have gotten my money’s worth in the first three minutes. Writer and director Harmony Korine doesn’t waste a single frame, jumping immediately to slow-motion shots of women on the beach flashing their breasts and middle fingers to the camera. A female voiceover fantasizes half-sincerely about the virtues of Spring Break. Cut to a church group, where the not-so-subtly named Faith (Selena Gomez) symbolically raises a hand up to the Lord while the other is tucked somewhere below. Then, in a college classroom, a couple of sex-starved friends (Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson) pass notes to each other. The first reads “I want penis” written in a heart, while Hudgens mock-fellates a crudely erect drawing labeled “Spring Break Bitch!” 

At this point the script probably sounds like something stolen from the offices of Brazzers.com. And it only gets better. Or worse, depending on your point of view.

I can understand a few progressive feminists defending this film. For the first 20 minutes or so there’s not a male character to be found. The girls complain about how they can’t afford to go down south for Spring Break—until three of them decide to rob a diner. They aren’t manipulated by men, they take matters into their own hands. This continues throughout, as they go to parties, get naked, and tease guys about sex but refuse to go all the way. Hardly role models, but at least they’re in control.

That all changes, however, after they do some coke (and who knows what else—the editing is hypnotically suggestive) and get arrested. Alien (James Franco) appears out of nowhere with his metal grills and bails them out. Franco’s performance really ties the whole film together, balancing wannabe bravado and eventual I’ve-gone-too-far-to-back-down-now realization . That’s when things really start to heat up. More guns, more sex, more neon shaded irony.

Actresses don’t just trip and fall into a movie like this. At least not when they’re multiple-platform “properties” like Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. They’re taking a big risk, hoping, perhaps, to take the Anne Hathaway career route (as opposed to Elizabeth Berkley). And that makes the film fascinating on a whole different level; we’re watching actresses as desperate to break out of their staid, conservative roles as the characters they’re playing.

Everything Spring Breakers is trying to do, it does brilliantly. It’s defensible trash. It knows exactly how to give the audience what they want, and, at the same time, mock them for wanting it. Exploitation rarely raises to such heights. It’s easily the sexiest social commentary of the year. Maybe of the decade. But what it’s saying, you marketing folks probably don’t want to hear.

Spring broken,

Christopher

Status: Priority Post (4.5/5)

Reader Comments (1)

I loved this piece. Insightful; I haven't seen the film yet, and the ending thesis ties "Spring Breakers" into the world and our reality seamlessly. Quality film journalism/cultural criticism.
October 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterClara Rose Thornton

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