Nightmare Dreamscape; Cinematic Wasteland – “Spring Breakers” Review

This review was ridiculously hard to write. The more I thought about the more I had to say, and the less it meant. I couldn’t seem to find a proper form for it. I thought about writing two of them; a positive and a negative, but then I realized how stupid that would be. At least the paradox in my critique is consistent with the film. I can’t explain to you how much I liked it, without simultaneously describing how bad it was as a film. It’s strengths are its weaknesses, its positives and negatives cancelling each other out. It doesn’t quite fit into any genre either; It’s an exploitation crime dramedy, with social commentary attached. I can’t really tell you which of this was done accidentally or intentionally, whether it was meant to be serious or ironic, but either way it certainly leaves an impression.

There are a few things I admire about Spring Breakers; The cheap marketing tactics on behalf of upstart distributor A24 allowed the movie to quickly turn a profit, and all they had to do was assault my YouTube feed until I gave into seeing it, and talked to about it. The movie contains an enjoyable soundtrack covered by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez that captures the tone well, churning out oddly appropriate beats as the narrative reels on. The film itself looks really cool, not just because there are four gorgeous girls in bikinis the entire time but also because the neon colour palette that gives everything a flashy and dreamlike look. It is definitely the film it wants to be; a rather unique animal. It is a loosely put together, borderline plotless tread, with one dimensional mostly brainless characters, and its quite fun.


The look may be dreamlike but the editing is a nightmare. With hardly a flow joining any of the scenes the choppy editing fails to build up any kind of dramatic tension. Due to this, even with the movie trimmed to a tight 93 minutes it almost manages to overstay its welcome. Not that there is a whole lot of movie to begin with, you have thinly written characters on screen without any meaningful dialogue. All I can remember from the movie is variations on the phrase “Spring Break forever bitches!”, It is very repetitive.

I want to drive home that last point; the shot that opens the film is repeated at least 3 more times over the course of the film, several lines of dialogue playback over and over, and over and over again. I understand the emphasis but this hardly makes for excess- its overkill! the shot of a semi-nude belligerent chick flashing her tits to the audience in slow motion seems less like excess and more like overkill after a while. I was hoping Harmony Korine would find more creative ways to serve the tone of the movie. But that’s spring break, though I’ve never been it seems they really captured the crowded sleaze of it all.

With something as straightforward as this, it’s left up to the actors to make the most of what they have, and they mostly do well. Only something as over the top as James Franco’s Alien could stand out. Now, I usually don’t like pinning the majority of a recommendation on a single performance but since there’s not much to go on here it makes sense to give this movie a light recommendation based on the scenery chewing James Franco. He’s both menacing and tenderly funny. Without him this film isn’t quite watchable.

An interesting and well acted scene shared between James Franco and surprisingly Selena Gomez.

As for the rest of the players Selena Gomez gives a surprisingly respectable performance in a small role without stretching herself too far, she continuously picks good supporting roles if you check her filmography. I wish her character served a more central role. She would’ve made a great protagonist serving as counterpoint to James Franco creating a natural dramatic tension. Unfortunately, that’s clearly not what they were going for here.

The other two leads Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson play dumb blondes highly effectively and share all their screen time together, which is about 90% of the film. Unfortunately their personalities aren’t explored at all, so the only reasonable point I can come to by the end is that they were insane since they have no arc, and you can’t get into their heads. I guess I found Hudgens to have more of a screen presence than Benson but that could be because I am more familiar with her, and I can’t quite blame Benson for not having much dialogue to work with. How this relates to their previous roles I don’t know never having seen High School Musical and only snippets of Pretty Little Liars. They do put on a great sex scene though and have wonderful chemistry together.

Finally, props to Rachel Korine as the fourth lead, who is rather role committed here. She is the only one of the main actors to sport nudity. I’m not sure if that it is made any easier by the fact that the director is your husband.

Nobody ruins this film unless its Harmony Korine. The criticisms that accompany the film can be attributed to the director’s apparent trademark for non-linear plotting made up of pieces of highly symbolic events (this according to IMDB). The editing is made choppy and characters straightforward, there is nothing here that isn’t taken at face value. This direction will easily dismiss many audiences and it just becomes a matter excess. How much can you take?

For entertainment value, I enjoyed myself and the audience I was with seemed to as well, there are quite a few laughs and groans and again, I couldn’t tell if the film was being ironic or intentional. This film was one of the few instances where the audience actually adds to the film, with the audience participation adding another dimension to the ridiculousness happening on screen. If only it were in 3D!

As for the Social commentary aspect that’s earned the film most of its good reviews from old people who have no idea what goes on during spring break, it is a very loose, very muddled message to our apparent wasted youth culture. I mean that in all possible ways. The message of teenage debauchery as an attractive gateway to an ugly life of poor decisions doesn’t strike me as all that informative. To me such experiences as this are worth taking at least once.


“It’s Spring Break Y’all! Key’s an’ big booties Y’all! That’s what life is about!” – James Franco


  • Very Cool Look
  • Cool Soundtrack
  • Great Performance by James Franco


  • Very straightforward and repetitive
  • Underdeveloped characters
  • Lack of build up

Overall: +1

-3            -2           -1           0             +1          +2          +3


  • What bought me my ticket:
  • Rachel Korine (27) is married with children to director Harmony Korine.
  • Ashley Benson is my favourite of the four, but has the least acting presence.
  • I watched Selena Gomez’s previous filmography before watching this film, she makes a decent actress.
  • During one scene the camera zooms in on the girls crotches, I imagine the camera person felt very pervy while filming this.
  • James Franco’s Alien to Selena Gomez’s Faith “How old are you? You look like your 15!”. She’s 20.
  • James Franco just makes me laugh in his expressions. He probably picks his roles based on if he can get away with being stoned.
  • There are two Britney Spears covers in this movie, which is one too many.


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