Spring Breakers (“My Rant About Art-House Cinema”)

31 Mar

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Synopsis: “Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.” (Rated R; 1 hour, 34 minutes)

To write this review I need to reiterate a very important point. I’m not a film snob writing this blog, I’m a true movie-lover. That means I’ll appreciate my really good vegetables like Amour, and eat up every last bite of amazing main courses like Zero Dark Thirty, but I’ll also have a great time munching on my popcorn like Jack The Giant Slayer, and get myself a few cavities when I snack on my M&M’s like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Yes, I enjoy gobbling up my movies by the handfuls. But where does that leave me with experimental, art-house cinema? You know, those movies that you hear about which get “great reviews”  and that you’re supposed to walk out of discussing how it was brilliant – but instead most people actually wish they’d stayed home to watch reruns of The O.C. We’ve all been there. I spend so much time in my blog defending movies that I think are being treated too HARSHLY by critics, but what also happens is that movies come along – usually in independent cinema – and the exact opposite happens.

I went into Spring Breakers wanting to like it. It was written and directed by the writer of Kids, a movie that made waves back in 1995 for portraying the infrequently depicted dark-side of teenagers, which involved drugs, sex and even a positive HIV test for Chloë Sevigny years before she became a sister-wife on Big Love. I haven’t seen that movie in years, but I don’t really remember it being a great movie, just something that was new and therefore worth seeing and talking about. Now comes a new movie from the same writer (Harmony Korine), and the New York Times gives it a 100% on Metacritic, describing it as, “the pursuit of happiness taken to nihilistic extremes” in the most glowing way possible. Okay, I’m officially ready to be blown away.

Instead what I got was mildly interested, somewhat bored, and mostly the need to keep watching to see how it played out, but not because I was enjoying, rather more like needing to watch a car accident on the side of the road that you know is slowing down traffic – you just have to watch anyway. But that’s just me, and I always want to see how movies play out. Adi on the other hand actually left the theater. After about 45 minutes of shuffling restlessly, she apologized and told me that she’d rather walk around The Grove and meet me after the movie ended. I thanked her for not asking me to leave as well, but couldn’t blame her. The movie was simply pointless. Yes it was about nihilism. Yes it was about the aimlessness of young people who need to feel a purpose and haven’t found that yet. But so what? Haven’t there been great movies done in the past that manage to depict hopelessness and selfish searching – movies such as The Graduate, and Garden State? Even the show Girls shows this same self-centered period of life in a way that’s far more entertaining and less weird/experimental cinema, with gobs of nudity. And if it’s naked images you’re looking for, Spring Breakers will provide you with plenty of gratuitous scenes of debauchery, entire montages of them (done artfully of course) , but even that will become tedious to the most juvenile of us boys watching the movie. Why? Because none of it had a point or much of a story, or goes anywhere.

The entire thing could have been an interesting 10 minute short, where you see the girls want to go on Spring Break, do bad things to get there, enjoy losing their minds once they arrive, and then get caught up in the underworld of it all. That’s the movie, and the more I think about it the more I wish it had been a short. Because as a drawn-out film I tired of it very quickly. The bizarre, experimental, nonlinear camerawork was what you’d expect to see shown in a modern art museum on a wall, but not interesting on the big screen for 94 minutes. Does being experimental and “different” make something good? Many film snobs would argue yes, or at least appreciate the effort. I say that if you can’t give me a story I care about, something to latch onto and be entertained/mesmerized/emotionally attached to, then I just don’t care; and if I don’t care, then what’s the point? I can’t even count the number of times you’d slowly hear the words “Spriiing Breaaaak” repeated in some Tom Waits-type growl, and I grew more and more impatient.  The movie involves watching an endless montage of imagery that you see over, and over and over again. Girls were restless, and hung out with bad guys, doing bad things. Fine, I got it the 4th time you showed it Mr. Korine.

James Franco was perfect in his bizarre role as a white-rapper/gangster, which you can see photographed here. Adi and I had just finished enjoying Oz The Great And Powerful, and agreed that James Franco was the worst part of it all; so it was ironic when we agreed he was the best part of THIS movie that we didn’t care for. He just got lost in this quirky role and from what I understand was quite the “method actor” throughout the filming. In fact his role was supposedly based on a combination of Riff Raff, and this bizarre real-life person, Dangeruss (shown on the right, with Franco on the left shadowing him in preparation for the role).

The biggest hype of the movie is that it stars “good girls being very bad”. It’s true, Selena Gomez from the Disney Channel is doing bad things in it, though she’s the one with the conscience of the group who does the least bad. Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical was truly “bad”, and did a nice job of it, as did Ashley Benson from Pretty Little Liars (and ABC Family show). But after the novelty of watching these actresses committing crimes, doing drugs and having sex wore off, I was left with the same attitude of “who cares” that I previously mentioned. And I certainly never came close to connecting with the characters in the slightest. Perhaps college-aged girls who watch this movie will identify with it more, and disagree with my overall assessment.

The NY Times and other critics can praise a movie like this all they want, and bash a movie like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to their heart’s content, but this is my blog, and I stand by my own taste in cinema.

The movie was better than Tree Of Life, a movie I compare it to only because that also was less plot-oriented and more about the experimental visuals that ensued. It also got phenomenal reviews, but I was far more bored watching it. Spring Breakers was worse than Heathers, a movie about girls being dark and murderous that actually holds up as a weird but entertaining dark comedy to watch.

Quality Rating: C (I refuse to give it a high grade just because it may have been well filmed. If you bore me, you lose many points, end of story)

Boaz Rating: D+ (My curiosity allowed me to enjoy it just enough for this low rating)

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15 Responses to “Spring Breakers (“My Rant About Art-House Cinema”)”

  1. Shlomo Abraham April 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    “…but instead most people actually wish they’d stayed home to watch reruns of The O.C.”

    Not true. I would rather watch unwatchable art-house cinema for time immemorial than watch the slightest bit of The O.C..

    Like

  2. boazconstrictor April 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Lol, you probably would…maybe. If only just to contradict me because you enjoy that most of all! 🙂

    Like

  3. Craig Bender April 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    I don’t get out to the movies much these days, but actually saw this about a week ago and after pondering it for a week I am still undecided if it was a good or bad movie. I like you Boaz came into the movie with high expectations due to positive reviews in EW, NY Times, etc. and I loved KIDS and the director Harmony who is know for his edginess and art house “shock almost for shocks sake” cinema.

    First the bad: The movie felt like a 90 minute music video from BET after dark. Just dance music with half naked girls doing drugs and shaking it. The plot was ridiculous and almost non-existent. And the ending ludicrous…****SPOILER ALERT***** Instead of having something bad happen to them which seemed likely based on the subject the protagonist bad girls drive off into the Sunset in a convertible. the lights went on and I was like WTF! ***END OF SPOILER****

    Now the good…James Franco was amazing and while he will never be considered for this roll should be nominated for an OSCAR because it was a role so against type, and it could have come off cartoonish, but his portrait was creepy and perfect. The movie was artfully shot and edited (even though it was non-linear to the point of a fault). What I thought was good was that the first half of the movie was pretty accurate…I believe it was almost a documentary of an R rated girls gone wild experience in Florida spring break. Then when they found the underworld of South Florida and the hardcore gangs and drug culture it could have become a cautionary tale had it ended differently. But ***SPOILER ALERT AGAIN*** the girls got arrested and then magically got baled out by a friendly drug dealer instead of their parents. Then they get involved with guns and robbery and drugs and other then one stray bullet to the arm they go home as if nothing happened and they haven’t learned anything. ***END OF SPOILER*** But, one final thing I liked is that usually only guys are shown as being tough and sexual and party animals. So I liked that modern millennial young college girls were portrayed truer to life then I have seen in cinema.

    So like I said a lot of good and a lot of bad so the movie left me confused. Had the girls died 10 little indian style showing that their bad actions had consequences I would have loved it and given it the A that other critics have. But, based on the ending and the mix of good and bad elements I have to agree with Boaz that your C rating is probably dead on.

    And on a side note…one of your best reviews yet…you should actually consider doing this professionally as a side job maybe for the Jewish Journal or even the LA times!

    CB

    Like

    • boazconstrictor April 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      I’m beyond flattered that you took the time to give such an insightful and detailed reply Craig, I love it. And the compliment you paid me at the end is probably unwarranted, but much appreciated! (But hey, if the right person ever happens to notice my blog and like it enough to have me write elsewhere, I wouldn’t complain 🙂
      I agree that Franco was great in the role, really amazing how he just dove headfirst into this wacked out character and in a totally believable way. And I don’t know that I agree and would have liked the movie any more if the endings had happened in a more believable way because I have no problem with being non-conformatory and different, my issue was mostly that I “got the point” after the first 30 minutes, and had little interest the rest of the way. As I mentioned in my comments to my friend Zach Ralston below, in the movie “Natural Born Killers” I had total interest from start to finish at the train wreck being created by the horrible characters, and whether they’d end up “getting away with it” or not at the end wouldn’t change the fact that I thought it was a crazy and brilliant movie. I just couldn’t stand watching this at a certain point, and that to me is the biggest crime a movie can do, because I have a heck of a lot of patience for good and bad, as well as fast and slow movies.

      But I would recommend reading Zach’s glowing review of the same movies, for the different perspective:
      http://privatejokershead.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/spring-breakers-810/

      Like

  4. zralston April 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Ugh, this was a depressing blog post to read. First of all, the factually incorrect stuff: it’s not the same director as Kids. (That was Larry Clark, who also directed Bully and Ken Park). Korine just wrote it. Secondly, I’m disappointed that you didn’t engage with the film on its own terms, and instead processed it through its hype and superficial appearance.

    You keep calling it pointless but this is the least pointless film I’ve seen all year (and it’s definitely the best film I’ve seen in 2013 so far). You didn’t identify with the characters? You’re not supposed to. That’s why you can barely tell the difference between Hudgens and Benson (and I guarantee, like me, you can’t tell me their characters names). The fact that this film re-appropriates pop culture through the prism it does is endlessly fascinating. It takes a shitty, bubble gum pop ballad like Britney Spears’s “Everytime” and turns it into something beautiful — by setting it to the montage of violence, thus using ironic juxtaposition to reframe the song and making it new and interesting. That shows respect both to Spears and to the actresses, who are not victimized (you think they’re gonna get date raped on Spring Break and they don’t), but also not angelicized. There’s so much going on here to appreciate, and I can’t wait to see it again. (Can you really tell me you weren’t energized by the bravura camerawork on display in the robbery scene — where we see everything that happens through the window of the getaway car in one long take? Come on, that’s exceptional filmmaking on an objective level).

    This, my friend, is where our tastes diverge the most, I fear. You can have your multiplex slot-fillers and bottom-line money programmers like Burt Wonderstone, and I’ll take aggressively original experiments like Spring Breakers that have trenchant comments to make about the American Dream and gender politics while wrapping it up in a candy-colored fever dream. I know which of those I find more interesting.

    Much love as always,
    -Zach

    Like

    • boazconstrictor April 3, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      Zach, my favorite commentator of all! Yes, we’ll have to strongly part ways on this one, although I don’t disagree with everything you’ve said. First of all, thank you for the correction that he wrote “Kids” but didn’t direct it, I will change that in the blog immediately!
      Secondly, yes, I actually WAS impressed by the camerawork during the robbery scene early on, and at that point was still kind of excited that I might like the movie.
      But no, I could always tell the girls apart quite well, and maybe I wasn’t “supposed” to care about them as you said, but in that case I would want to be mesmerised by it like the movie “Natural Born Killers” for example, but here I simply got bored. At the end of the day, I will never be able to appreciate a movie that much if it bores me, and I stand by the fact that I think the points that you are describing could have been done in a 10 minute short that I would have said was interesting and inventive. Over the course of an entire movie I found it repetitive and artsy for the sake of being artsy. And yes, I’ll take my Burt Wonderstone over this in a heartbeat, and you disagreeing doesn’t make you wrong, I fully realize that I am writing the review from more of the point of the view of the everyman and that is simply my personal taste and honesty.
      I love that you will tell me when you disagree, and explain why, because it will not necessarily be things I noticed, and if they are they may be things I just didn’t put the same weight to, but I love these discussions!

      Like

  5. Drew April 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Heathers is one of my favorite movies of all time! Oh man Christian Slater was like my idol back then!

    Like

    • boazconstrictor April 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      You mean the young Jack Nicholson clone? Yes, he was awesome, and so was the movie! 🙂

      Like

      • Drew April 9, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

        EXACTLY! He was a splitting image of Jack Nicholson, complete with the same behavioral patterns and all.

        Like

  6. monster1711 April 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    I can already tell we’re going to have some fun. C’mon, it wasn’t that bad. At least it had a fine performance from Franco and some eerily haunting scenes. I refuse to believe it is comparable to the Tree of Life. I liked Spring Breakers but I thoroughly loved the Tree of Life. But, you’re right, what fun would this be if everyone agreed on everything,

    Like

    • boazconstrictor April 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      Ha, yes, my good friend Zach who writes another great blog HATED my review on this, he took out his metaphorical knives on me for writing as harshly about it, you can see his annoyed comments below. I love that interchange, we often agree but I told him it’s just as much fun when we don’t! 🙂
      Yeah, you can see I’ll be someone who’ll LOVE most but I have a low threshold/tolerance for movies that bore me. Though yes, I did admit in the review that Franco was awesome. 🙂

      Like

  7. table9mutant April 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Another really good review – I’m enjoying your blog! 🙂 And I’m glad I chose to see Oblivion instead of Spring Breakers last weekend now…

    Like

    • boazconstrictor April 20, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      Ha, though realize that so many people loved Spring Breakers, I was the exception, not the rule. But I certainly felt strongly about it. 🙂
      And thank you for the really nice overall praise about the blog!!

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Oz The Great And Powerful (“My Take On Eagerly Anticipated Movies”) | Boaz's Movie Obsession - April 3, 2013

    […] The casting of James Franco as (The Wizard Of) Oz was in large part to blame. I do realize that he was meant to be a charlatan, a trickster, all smoke and mirrors and thus a bit of a weasel; but it’s just no fun watching the protagonist as such a sniveling, whiny brat of a character. I wasn’t particularly rooting for him, and you kind of just wanted to slap all of the rest of the characters for treating him with such adoration and reverence. James Franco played Oz basically the same way he pretended to be an Oscar host in 2011: as a lazy, laid back, uninteresting character who mailed in his performance. It was bad enough that he did it as a host in a live ceremony, but for Sam Raimi to have months to film him, and somehow still think his performance was adequate as a character that kids should be watching and rooting for? It just didn’t make sense to me. (Editor’s note: Ironically, the movie we ended up seeing next was Spring Breakers, a film where I felt that the best thing about it WAS James Franco’s insane performance, as reviewed here.) […]

    Like

  2. Scary MoVie (“My God, They Make Movies This Bad?”) | Boaz's Movie Obsession - April 23, 2013

    […] -Spring Breakers: I may have hated this art-house piece, but I was willing to admit that James Franco was fantastic, and that it had enough interesting ideas to make up a great 10 minute short. I just couldn’t stand watching it stretched into a full length ego-stroking extravaganza for the filmmaker. […]

    Like

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