“Spring Breakers”

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

I decided in order to break up the monotony of me summarizing bills (I have so many left to do….) that I would write a little bit about the movie Spring Breakers. I promise despite this and Oz that I will not only be reviewing movies featuring James Franco… 

Spring Breakers reminds me a bit of Fear and Loathing in its social commentary theme. If you take the essence of Fear and Loathing– the idea that the American dream has become this grotesque excessive thing- and fast forward the setting to our hyper violent-sexuality modern media culture, you would get something not unlike Spring Breakers.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and found that it made me think but there are two major faults I found with it. One, it is super, super heavy handed. I understand the American dream theme. I don’t need Franco’s character Alien to yell “This is my American dream, bitches!” to get what the movie is about. The other flaw is that it really needs some editing down. You could easily lose 15 minutes from this 90 minute film without adversely effecting the plot or theme. Simply put there is an excess of transitional footage. Obviously some of it is necessary but in many parts it goes on for 30 seconds to a minute longer than needed and it makes the movie drag along a bit. 

Flaws aside, the movie offers a stunningly crystallized critique of modern society, in particular consumer excess. This really comes together as Franco yells “Look at all my shit!” while surrounded by all the status symbol objects he has purchased. Getting “shit” is the motivation for him and the girls to do bad things. Pursuit of objects leads to violence and chaos. 

There is also an element of the film that seems to deal with privilege and self absorption. There is a sense that these well-off predominantly white kids show up to use a Florida town for spring break with no concern for the wreckage they leave in their wake. They are self centered and completely unconcerned about any damage they do to the community they are in. This extends beyond the principle characters in the film into the destructive behavior of all the extras in the party scene. There is a hedonistic wrecking of things with little regard for anyone who will be there when spring break ends to pick up the pieces. This embodies destructive self absorbed behavior so common in our society today.

There are not really any “good guys” in this movie. Yet, there is something compelling about the characters. They do bad things but it is hard to hate them. It is easy to see them as shaped by their circumstances and by society. Not as bad people, but rather as products of a toxic situation. 

Lastly, I would like to make a brief comparison to Franco’s other recent release, Oz. Unfortunately in Oz, the female characters lacked agency. They were there waiting breathlessly for a wizard to come and save the day. They all just fawn over him and are helpless next to him. These three witches, with actual magic powers, are helpless compared to one carnival magician.

On the other hand, while Franco’s Alien does rescue the girls in Spring Breakers at one point, they don’t become simply his fawning support cast. They are partners in crime with him not just some girl waiting breathlessly on the sidelines. They make their own decisions just as the had been in the film up until the point they had met him. They are characters with their own motivations and goals and they aren’t chiefly a device to advance the story for the male lead. 

Strangely, in a movie where the women spend the bulk of the time in swimsuits, the female leads have far more agency than a movie that is based (loosely) on books by a pronounced feminist. (who I am sure would be horrified by the fawning witches)