Review: Spring Breakers

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: Four bored college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, & Rachel Korine) rob a fast food restaurant on a whim, and use the money to go on spring break in Florida. While indulging in a non-stop orgy of booze, coke, and sex- they meet a rapper/drug dealer named Alien (James Franco)- who takes them under his wing.

REVIEW: SPRING BREAKERS is absolutely mental, and I mean that in the best way possible. Anyone who knows his work can understand that Harmony Korine is far from an accessible director most of the time, and while SPRING BREAKERS is full of hot, nubile young flesh, and loud, thumping music, it’s all just window-dressing, for a film that’s ultimately as true to his own aesthetic as anything he’s ever done. Meaning, SPRING BREAKERS is more Michelangelo Antonioni than Todd Phillips– for better or worse. Korine uses sex to get our butts in the seats, but once we get there, he takes us on a journey that’s far from what you’d expect.

Korine’s film is actually only peripherally about the phenomenon of spring break, which he depicts like a carnival sideshow. Sure- there’s tons of hot girls getting naked, but everyone seems so moronic that it’s hard to be turned on by any of it. Rather, it feels like Korine wants you to be repelled by it. Enter our four heroines. Their casting is bold, with three of them; Gomez, Hudgens, and Benson- being known for their sugary sweet images- utterly devoid of edge. Suffice it to say, they’ve found their edge.

The one everyone’s talking about is Selena Gomez, and while she’s good, her character- being the Christian good-girl, Faith- who’s probably the only one of the four that’s not a full-on sociopath, is probably the least interesting. Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson are the really intriguing ones, with their “perfect 10” faces and bodies hiding the fact that each of them seems to be utterly devoid of any morality whatsoever, making them a match made in heaven (or hell) for Franco’s Alien. Both of them deserve huge kudos for the way they let Korine depict them.

All that said, SPRING BREAKERS really is Franco’s movie. Other than a quick scene, he doesn’t really show up until thirty-to-forty minutes into the movie, but from there on he dominates it. A nightmarish caricature of a wanna-be thug, complete with cornrows, grillz on his teeth, and a house-full of bricks of coke, cash and assault weapons, Franco is utterly unrecognizable, and disappears into the part in a way I can’t ever remember him doing before. His “look at my shit” monologue seems patterned on Tony Montana’s “Say goodnight to the bad guy” speech in SCARFACE, and indeed- he has a picture of Montana hanging on his wall.

Through it all, SPRING BREAKERS feels like an absolute assault on the audience Korine seems to be trying to court, but is really subverting at every turn. I can’t imagine what Selena Gomez‘ teen- “Belieber” fans are going to make of this- but for those of you that have seen other Korine films, or have an idea what you’re getting into, it’s a pretty great little film.

That said, Korine’s movies can be a bit tough to sit through, but SPRING BREAKERS never is. It’s gorgeous to look at, and I’m not only referring to the sexy girls in bikinis (although that doesn’t hurt). With photography by Benoit Debie, who also shot GET THE GRINGO and IRREVERSIBLE, it goes from having the (intentional) look of an MTV special during the spring break sections, to a cool, nightmarish vibe during the night scenes, and a surreal, alienating look as the film gets darker and darker. The score by DRIVE’s Cliff Martinez and electronica maestro Skrillex is also extremely memorable.

While it’s dark, and certainly weird, SPRING BREAKERS always remains entertaining- which is something that can’t always be said about Korine’s other movies. Going in I figured I’d have a blast with it, but instead I came out with a film that’s a surprisingly complex and disturbing look at a culture that’s always seemed vapid, but now seems like something out of a nightmare, no matter how sexy it is on the surface. SPRING BREAKERS is a must-see.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.