[Gun Cocks]

[Contains dark tanning oil and SPOILERS!!!]

Selena Gomez as ‘Faith’, Rachel Korine as ‘Cotty’, Vanessa Hudgens as ‘Candy’ and Ashley Benson as ‘Brit’ in “Spring Breakers”Although the eye-catching promotional material for Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012) suggested sexy fun times with former Disney starlets, the film itself is more of a punky pop-art provocation than a straight-up comedy like the superficially-similar Sugar & Spice. Although there is a (mostly) linear narrative, with the traditional conflict/development/resolution structure that writing tutors are always banging on about, there are plenty unconventional touches along the way, such as disconcerting gun clicks randomly punctuating the soundtrack (foreshadowing the violence to come), lines of dialogue looped and repeated like mantras by different characters, and prophetic images spliced into scenes like acid-laced flashforwards… all while the screen is being splattered with impressionistic splashes of abstract beauty. I wouldn’t call the cinematography “painterly”, in the traditional sense… more like a mural sprayed onto the side of a convenience store in day-glo colours, or a sweary Tracey Emin-style neon-light sculpture… which is no bad thing, in my book.

Selena Gomez as ‘Faith’, Ashley Benson as ‘Brit’, Rachel Korine as ‘Cotty’ and Vanessa Hudgens as ‘Candy’ in “Spring Breakers”Getting down to basics, the story follows four college-aged girls who are desperate to get out of their hometown for a “spring break” in Florida, but sorely lack the necessary funding. To correct this, three of the girls (high on cocaine and clad in ski-masks) commit an armed robbery at a local restaurant… which Korine brilliantly stages as a single-take, shot from the getaway car as it circles the premises, the camera peering in through the windows to catch disconnected glimpses of the chaos within. The heist goes off without a hitch, and three thieves quickly decamp to a hedonistic beach resort to enjoy their ill-gotten gains, along with their more reserved, religious BFF. After getting busted at a drug-littered house-party, they are “bailed out” of jail* by a white wannabe-rapper/gangster named ‘Alien’ (James Franco), who’s taken a keen interest in the nubile, bikini-clad sexpots. At this point in the story, it’s pretty obvious that storm clouds are gathering on the horizon… but what I really appreciate about Korine’s script is that he gives his heroines an out and respects their choices, rather than sadistically tossing them all into a metaphorical (or literal) meat-grinder.

Selena Gomez as ‘Faith’ in “Spring Breakers”When we first meet the group’s token “good girl” ‘Faith’ (Selena Gomez), she’s attending a youth-oriented prayer meeting, where the pumped-up pastor explains that whenever we face temptation in life, God will always provide an escape route, if we have the presence of mind (or soul) to recognise it… and so it was gratifying to see that when Faith starts feeling uneasy about the direction their vacation has taken, her friends dutifully put her on a bus bound for home, where she (presumably) lives a long and happy, Alien-free life. Phew! I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I shared her unease, and was relieved to see that she got away relatively unscathed… even if it did mean seeing less of Gomez on screen. Likewise, when the group’s getaway driver ‘Cotty’ (Rachel Korine) gets shot in the arm during a drive-by confrontation with Alien’s mentor-turned-mortal-frenemy (Gucci Mane) and decides to call it quits, her partners-in-crime patch her up and put her on the bus back to sanity and safety. Hurrah! This then leaves Alien alone with ‘Brittany’ (Ashley Benson) and ‘Candy’ (Vanessa Hudgens), the demon-blooded, bullet-proof “bad girls” of his dreams, who take it upon themselves to avenge their bestie’s wounding, by storming their rival’s lair and shooting anything that moves!

Selena Gomez as ‘Faith’, Ashley Benson as ‘Brit’, Vanessa Hudgens as ‘Candy’ and Rachel Korine as ‘Cotty’ in “Spring Breakers”According to Wikipedia, when the film was first released, there was an intense debate over whether it was “empowering” or “exploitative”… and I’m not sure which side of that fence I’d come down on. Although I greatly admire Mr Korine for all the reasons stated above, there’s no question that his camera ogles the plentiful female flesh on display here, and that many of his shots play as straight-up soft-core pornography. On the other hand, his female characters all have agency over their own lives (excluding their arrest, of course), and they all get the endings that they choose for themselves… which is more than you can say for their male counterparts! If pushed, I’d describe the film as a mesmerising, morally ambivalent, hyper-real exploration of quintessentially American iconography, occasionally undermined by sexist self-indulgence.

———–

* Technically, they have to pay fines to avoid an extra two days of jail-time, so it isn’t really “bail”, no matter what the police officer who releases them says!

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About deecrowseer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
This entry was posted in Rants about Films and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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