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Beachside carousing of college students isn’t the real subject that Harmony Korine brought up in his Spring Breakers, it is murder be the real subject.
The quartet of party-hungry young women (Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) falls in with a drug dealer (James Franco). Being enticed by money and guns, two of the girls take up arms alongside him and use them on his enemies with surprising aplomb. For all the sun-scathed bacchanalia that the title promised, the working-out is a mere slippery slope of crime. Spring Breakers movie begins with the girls get the money for the spree by holding up a fast-food joint. Then, they arrive at the beach as something of a band apart, differentiated from the other kids by those extreme measures and riper for some headier gangster action than they themselves expected.
The setting of spring break is only used as a backdrop for a crime drama of shooting sprees and body counts. Spring Breakers is about the reduction and absurdum of spring break as a sort of murder camp at the end of which students return to college refreshed, re-energized and re-educated or finally educated in real competition and rendered all the readier for a career in business. Ultimately, the movie is a manual of competitive ruthlessness offering the repeated banal definition of the drug dealer’s life. As the movie suggesting, its Spring Breakers are getting the education of their life, and colleges are the permanent vacation where privileged young people stay clear of the raw realities of America.
Also, Korine presents the divide in experience essentially in racial terms. The movie seems to be Korine’s version of Norman Mailer’s 1957 essay The White Negro. As Mailer arguing, the white “hipsters” seek to put themselves in the psychological and even practical position of American blacks by means of transgressive behavior forcing them to confront the daily perils of the sort faced by blacks. The racial is underpinned of the action in Spring Breakers full movie, and it is too blatant to ignore. For instance, the Tampa Bay spring-break scene is depicted as whiter than a Republican convention. Another example is when Alien tells the girls his revealing life story of growing up in St. Petersburg as the only white kid in his school. There are more if we go deep into that side of the movie.
Above all, Korine emphasizes the story’s racial aspect with a strange twist of visual invention that occurs at the story’s climax. That is the sequence when the two girls arrive with Alien for their raid on Archie’s compound. The girl is wearing bikinis and pink ski masks, fully armed and ready to strike. They cross a narrow bridge through a field of black light turning their bathing suits fluorescent and making their masks glow blue and greatly darkening their skin. Since the girls are wearing masks, only their torsos and limbs are darkened, and if they hadn’t been wearing masks and their faces had been darkened, the effect would have been far more apparent and widely debated. In the event, their masks don’t merely conceal their faces from their enemies or from the law. The director’s ultimate spring-break fantasy is a vision of murder camp and black camp, and he doesn’t make any effort to distinguish the two. The very mainspring of the movie is his stereotypical and reductive view of black life as one of drug dealing and gang violence.
The four girl are closed units whose sole connection to the wider world is in their deceptive phone calls to family members. A sweetened vision of kids socializing in a constructive way is as fake as the values of the parents or grandparents who fall for it. The ostensible truth of things remains as hidden from relatives and professors as it does from respectable culture at large. Those they leave behind, those have no other life to get back to, and those have a heavier price to pay.
Korine enfolds his actors in a quasi-documentary context and films them with the uninflected signifiers of authenticity. The movie runs on its external context of the idea of Disney-girls-gone-wild, and it is the metafiction from which the drama of Spring Breakers draws its energy. The public identity of three of the actresses is as central to the movie as the celebrity of Marilyn Monroe to Andy Warhol’s paintings of her.
Spring Breakers movie isn’t so much an elaborate put-on as it is a simulacrum. Whether Korine films half-naked girl exulting on the beach or gunslingers in the heat of conflict or characters reflecting in moments of pensive stillness, he seems to be miming the gesture, and this is how he might have conveyed such pleasures, such drama or such emotion.
In this way, Spring Breakers is a movie in the conditional tense.
Korine’s satisfaction isn’t in the emotions themselves but in the mimetic gesture itself. The movie would be an extraordinary put-on if Korine didn’t play his part with such flamboyant conviction. The closer you gets to Spring Breakers movie, the further it recedes. That’s the mark of its tuckered-out and traumatized post-modernism, with its young characters launched on ineffable adventures with no vocabulary to capture them and neither does his audience, which laps it up.