Spring Breakers is at the top of that list. What's the appeal? Even the premise that four attractive young actresses would prance around in bikinis for 90 minutes didn't seem enough. But watching with a friend -- thank you Redbox credit! -- I gave it a shot. It's beyond a guilty pleasure, it's just an awful movie. And away we go!
A freshman in college, Faith (Selena Gomez) is struggling to find herself, going back and forth between the life she thinks she should lead and then more embracing the crazy college life with friends from grammar school, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Brit (Ashley Benson). Faith has agreed to go along with her friends, including a fourth girl, Cotty (Rachel Korine), to spring break somewhere in Florida. Candy, Brit and Cotty get the money they need by some interesting means and head out with Faith, embracing the partying, drinking and drugs associated with all that is spring break. The quartet enjoys spring break a little too much though, getting arrested at a party riddled with cocaine. Wasting away in a holding cell, they're released, an underground rapper and self-proclaimed hustler named Alien (James Franco) paying their bail. How crazy was their trip before? It's about to get a whole lot weirder.
Words don't describe the badness on display here. From director/writer Harmony Korine, 'Breakers' is bizarre in nature. Is it supposed to be some sort of dream-like nightmare, a spring break vacation on steroids? Is it supposed to be a spoof, an intended guilty pleasure that embraces how awful it is? Or, maybe worst of all, is it supposed to have some sort of messed-up message, an arthouse film trying to be profound and unique? The sad thing is, it doesn't achieve any or all of those objectives. It's trying to be profound on so many levels and fails on every single one. Story, acting, cinematography, editing, soundtrack, they're all duds to the point it actually becomes painful to watch.
Let's start with the visuals. 'Breakers' appears to have been filmed in a colorful, filtered fog. The colors are oddly appealing, the colors of the girls' bikinis coming to life and standing out from the rest. Each scene is full of color -- pink, teal, orange, yellow -- that eventually overcomes the story, making things look like a comic book. More than that, a 93-minute movie is shot like one extended music video. A non-linear story is fine, but 'Breakers' plays like one long montage with pretentious voice-overs laid in over the visual. We see the quartet ride scooters about 183 times, we see them drinking and doing drugs, we see them partying, all on one slow-motion loop. I lost count of how many montages we see -- in more slow-motion of course -- of random partygoers on beaches and sleazy motels drinking, drugging, doing beer bongs, grinding on each other, making out. It's tedious by the fourth time (that's an estimate) we see it, and things never recover.
Now for the acting. Where to begin? Where to start? We've got four teeny bopper-esque actresses in Gomez, Hudgens, Benson and Korine, all of them shaking off their pristine, cooky cutter reputations (especially Gomez and Hudgens, trying for years courtesy of some "leaked" nude pictures). Gomez comes out relatively unscathed, Korine gets to slut it up as the sluttiest of the four, and then there's Hudgens and Benson. Those two are on a whole other level. Bored to tears with their college lives -- poor babies -- they decide to embrace everything they want via spring break. How do they pay for the trip? They rob a restaurant, later showing Gomez's Faith how they did so. They swear up a storm, posture like they're gangsters from South Central, and basically act through some of the most cringe-inducing scenes I've ever seen.
Then there's Franco as hustler, drug dealer, rapper and all-around criminal, Alien. Wearing dreadlocks, gold grillz/teeth, sporting patchy facial hair and looking like a two-bit gangster, Franco is unreal, hamming it up in ways I never though possible. He dances, he mugs, he speaks in an undecipherable "accent" that I struggle to actually describe it without sounding like an idiot. My favorite though is his scene where he recites all his possessions, "I've got shorts....in every color! I've got Calvin Klein Escape and Be...because I like to smell good! I've got dark tanning oil so I can tan with my dark tanning oil!" It goes on like that for far too long. Alien introduces the girls to the world they want -- or in some cases, thought they wanted -- of guns, violence, strip clubs, drugs and three-ways in pools. How can you lose?
Okay, moving on, lots to do (criticize) and so little time. How about the script? Was there one? In scenes where the characters aren't having sex, drinking, or brandishing heavy-duty guns, voice-overs pepper the 93-minute running time. It's like American Beauty meets The Thin Red Line but.....really not good. Gomez's Faith says countless times "People are so amazing. We have so many new friends. People are so nice." in her inane, painful monologues. Wow, that's profound! It doesn't get any better. It's one awkwardly delivered voice-over after another, all played with one obnoxious techno/dance song or psychedelic 1980s trance music ripped out of Risky Business. The script descends into some sort of drug-infused madness that gets worse and worse. Eventually, it has Alien and his Angels doing battle with a rival gangster, Big Archie (rapper Gucci Mane), an ending that defies logic and reality like everything else, but amplified.
This is a movie that derails quickly and never rights itself. I hated the characters, wanting them to meet some sort of horrific end, but even the ending is beyond idiotic. I can't even remotely recommend this one. As my friend said, "Maybe we should have done acid before we started." Would it have made it better, even slightly more tolerable? That's debatable. At one point, Alien actually serenades the girls (wearing pink stocking caps, black sweatpants and brandishing automatic rifles/pistols) with a Britney Spears song that he sings while playing piano on his ocean-front home. Awful, just awful. Give it a ridiculously wide berth.
Spring Breakers (2012): */****