Spring Breakers Spring Breakers

Contains explicit content

Faith

 

Few movies of the past decade were more controversial than Spring Breakers. Even fewer seemed as calibrated to provoke. When the first trailer dropped early in 2013, reactions were predictable. Replete with half-naked (former) child stars committing acts of extreme violence, all for a giant party, the trailer was a signal of intent. It seemed as though this was going to be the empty, hedonistic vehicle that would allow those stars to cast off their Disney-fied images and enter the world of adulthood. It’s a journey most child stars eventually make, but it is a journey rarely welcomed.

 

The casting of Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as these bikini-clad villains suggested that shock value was the intent – that the film was calculated to draw reactions from fans and media. Who would be able to look away from the corruption of their childhood icons? Director Harmony Korine would have been aware of what he was inviting when he made those decisions. When the film starts, he leans into it. He splashes bongs, butts and bare breasts across the screen for the first two minutes, reveling in the madness of spring break and all the debauchery it entails. “This is the film you’ve been so angry about”, he seems to say. “This is the film you’ve been waiting for.”

 

Harmony Korine is too smart to make that film. A teen romp that doubles as a simple, moralistic tale about vapid youth culture would have been the safe route, yet he seems to shy away from didactic art. Even his interviews are evasive. He has repeatedly suggested that while his films are certainly loaded with difficult ideas, he won’t be the one to unpack them. His films have to do the talking for him.

Screenshots from Showmax

 

Spring Breakers isn’t necessarily pro-Bacchanalian drug-fest, but Korine isn’t blind to the appeal. He sympathises with his characters and understands how desperately they want to transcend the routine of their lives. That’s why he offers us Faith (Gomez) as a way into the film. Ostensibly the film’s protagonist – and virtually the only character with any level of interiority – she is solid enough to anchor the audience within this manic world. She’s Christian, but only really half committed. She’s gentler than her friends, but no saint either. Like so many of us, embedding ourselves in astrology, crystals and self-help guides, she’s searching for something – anything – that can transcend an existence that feels increasingly random and mundane. She needs a place to put her faith.

 

Her campus youth pastor seems to understand that at some level. There’s an element of performance to his group sermons, which try to drag religion into the 21st century by asking questions like “Are you jacked up on Jesus?” He’s both an ugly parody and an elegy for a religion that has for millennia offered threads of certainty to bind up people’s fears. And he’s not entirely unsuccessful; some of the kids who partake are, it can be argued, jacked up on Jesus. Yet Faith is lost. She is also perfectly primed to use Spring Break as a stop-gap.

(Jeff Jarrett as the youth pastor. Jarrett is a professional wrestler and wrestling promotor, so he won’t be unfamiliar with bombast and performance)

It works, for a while. Once her friends have robbed the nearest “Chicken Shack,” the gang have enough money to make their way down to Florida, where they join in the fun. Faith finds her transcendence, not in prayer but in togetherness (laced with a fair amount of cocaine and alcohol). Korine doesn’t hold anything back in these party sequences, because – once again – he doesn’t want to. The party needs to be alluring, with its array of beautiful neon-lit bodies going wild for a moment in time. Between parties, Faith calls her grandmother, extolling without irony the virtues of this candy-coated world. Only the edit exposes the lie, intercutting her almost spiritual words with clips from the party (where shots of grinding crotches outnumber the shots of comfort and growth). Despite the winking of the edit, what matters is that she believes it. Maybe it’s true.

 

Later, in a pool with her friends, she declares that she has found her place. For a moment, she has grasped that light she was searching for, and she wishes she could hold onto it forever. What if we lived here? she wonders. What if this perfect week became a month, or a year? Our whole lives?

 

Alien

 

The girls are arrested a couple of scenes later, when they’re caught doing drugs at a party (not for the diner robbery, as you might expect). The movie pivots and Faith’s idle dreams twist and squirm into reality in the form of Alien (James Franco), who bails them out. Why does he bail these strangers out? Who knows? There certainly is something alien about Franco’s character – something other. Korine describes him as a shape-shifter, “a sort of cultural mash-up,” with his cornrows and grilles and status as an aspiring rapper.

 

He takes the girls back to a party of his own, in a pool hall that functions as a gritty mirror-world reflected below the glossy Spring Break. Where does he live? Here, of course. Where else? “Spring break forever,” he drawls in that Floridian accent. It’s as if Faith reaches through the mirror and sees her fantasies made flesh; she sees the logical endpoint of her dreams smiling back at her and she recoils. Then she flees, ripping out the film’s centre and sending us spinning.

 

The certainty we have in the story that’s being told dissolves, leaving us with nothing to hold onto, like we’re at a party at 2AM and we can’t find our friends and our head is spinning and we’re tired of being jostled and all we can make sense of is our existential despair. Brit, Candy and Cotty are – according to Korine – three parts of a single whole (the fourth being Faith), but they are left deliberately abstract, permanently stripped of both their shirts and their internal lives.

 

Douglas Crise’s editing compliments this break from simplicity. He eschews linearity, preferring instead to loop words and images, repeating the same shots of wild, half-naked spring breakers, stretching out Korine’s “micro-scenes” into something more hypnotic, stripping those scenes of any meaning or context until everything about spring break – and Alien’s darker mirror-world – blend together.

 

Alien is the harbinger of all this danger and chaos, but he also broadens and deepens the film’s scope. In many ways, he is a counterpart to Anton Yelchin’s drug dealer in Thoroughbreds. Both are low-level criminals with a distinctly creepy vibe, aping this larger, cooler criminal culture. Both are driven by this unquestioning belief that if they just hustle long enough, they’ll beat the system and hack the American Dream. Both ultimately fall prey to that dream, because they discover too late that the success they’re seeking has never, and could never, belong to them. It doesn’t even belong to the gangsters that Alien is mimicking (depicted by black actors, as opposed to the spring breakers, who are overwhelmingly white).

 

Enter Big Arch, the film’s antagonist and the leader of those gangsters. In a film full of clever meta-commentary, Alien’s nemesis/former mentor is perhaps the sharpest. Played by Gucci Mane (in his first acting role), Big Arch is a more sharply drawn image of success than Alien understands. Where Alien drives a nice-enough convertible with a license plate that reads “BALL R,” Arch cruises in a Lamborghini. Where Alien can’t think of greater success than having guns, tanning oil and shorts in every colour, Big Arch’s life looks as if it’s been ripped from a 2000s hip hop video. And that Venn diagram that so inextricably links hip hop culture, gangsterism and consumerism grows even more intricate when you consider that Mane – who named himself after Gucci – has spent a good deal of time in prison. The grotesque world these characters live in is reflected in our own. That extends to deeper issues as well, like race. I mention the race of the spring breakers (white) and the gangsters (black) above because of how conspicuous it is. Some early readings of the film condemned this choice, missing perhaps that it is a choice – it involved intent on the part of the filmmakers, not just prejudice.

 

Racial politics are built into the core of this film in ways that make them essential to unpack, even for those of us coming from a lived experience that is profoundly different. In an early scene, Brit and Candy fantasize about sex during a lecture about the civil rights movement and, more specifically, the liberation of black Americans in the south. Later, those same girls hold a gun to a black man’s head while they rob him of the money that will get them to their Spring Break. Gangsterism and the tentacles it has in modern culture, vile though they may be, are an attempt by the disenfranchised to liberate themselves – to seize power and agency – within a society that has robbed them of that choice. Big Arch has attained ultimate success within that world, yet he is gunned down by two young girls all the same, because that success is something he has to steal. It’s an imitation of the American Dream, but the real thing is owned by people larger and richer and scarier than Big Arch could ever be. Alien was never more than an imitation of an imitation, doomed to die before the film’s climax even takes shape.

 

Richard Brody, of the New Yorker, makes a fascinating point about the film in his review: the lighting in the climax renders Brit and Candy’s skin almost black (Alien’s skin remains significantly whiter throughout the sequence). These girls – “the top girls,” as Korine calls them – now stripped of their morality in the form of Faith, become the real aliens. They are not of this world and so they are not beholden to it. They march through Big Arch’s defenses in their fluorescent bikinis, untouched and untouchable, primed to take this world by the time they’ve spent in the glossier, but equally greedy, mirror-world they came from. When they’re done, they can shift their shapes back, call their mothers and promise to be good girls, content in the certainty that comes from existing within the system, not outside it.

(Brit and Candy gun down one of Big Arch’s guys)

Korine and Crise intercut the endless micro-scenes of Spring Break revelry with the harder, harsher, Floridian underbelly to make it clear that these things are not so different. The party-goers and the gangsters are all driven by an individualistic drive to get more. They all seek to transcend, but it’s Brit and Candy who come out on top because the sociopathy derived from their hedonism is rewarded within their world, while it ultimately destroys everyone in Arch’s world. The girls are divorced from the consequences of Arch’s world. There’s never so much of a whiff of trouble over the diner robbery. When the girls do get arrested for drug use, they get a citation that won’t reflect on their criminal records. What would have happened to Big Arch in that courtroom? The horror of this film is not that Brit and Candy ultimately descend into hell – it’s that they’re already there, and they think it’s heaven.

 

Despite all of this, the film somehow isn’t the least bit dour. All of those hypnotic elements Korine laces into the film give it a bright, repetitive energy, more akin to a pop song than a traditional film. The film embraces the neon glow of those excesses even as it condemns the entire rotten system they’re stacked upon. It is – dare I say it – Wolf of Wall Street, with ninety minutes trimmed away, and more butts.

 

The film finds warmth and beauty, too, in its quieter moments. Korine offers a solution to Faith’s search for transcendence halfway through the film, when the girls are united and happy in their togetherness. Over and over, greed pushes the characters into increasing isolation: Alien once taught Arch how to swim – they were best friends until Alien’s desire for money trumped the relationship. The girls are four parts of a whole, in Korine’s mind, yet the party drives them apart. The gross individualism and the race to the top that drives the spring breakers and the gangsters alike is exquisite for a moment, but as with the film’s endlessly looping images, increasingly empty and meaningless. They’re looking for the light in the wrong place. Only Faith, faced with Alien - the leering, funhouse-mirror version of her – sees that. She does the only thing any of us can do – she rejects it.

Essays

/

Contact

2020 © Derrick Brak

 \ 
Spring Breakers Spring Breakers

Contains explicit content

Faith

 

Few movies of the past decade were more controversial than Spring Breakers. Even fewer seemed as calibrated to provoke. When the first trailer dropped early in 2013, reactions were predictable. Replete with half-naked (former) child stars committing acts of extreme violence, all for a giant party, the trailer was a signal of intent. It seemed as though this was going to be the empty, hedonistic vehicle that would allow those stars to cast off their Disney-fied images and enter the world of adulthood. It’s a journey most child stars eventually make, but it is a journey rarely welcomed.

 

The casting of Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as these bikini-clad villains suggested that shock value was the intent – that the film was calculated to draw reactions from fans and media. Who would be able to look away from the corruption of their childhood icons? Director Harmony Korine would have been aware of what he was inviting when he made those decisions. When the film starts, he leans into it. He splashes bongs, butts and bare breasts across the screen for the first two minutes, reveling in the madness of spring break and all the debauchery it entails. “This is the film you’ve been so angry about”, he seems to say. “This is the film you’ve been waiting for.”

 

Harmony Korine is too smart to make that film. A teen romp that doubles as a simple, moralistic tale about vapid youth culture would have been the safe route, yet he seems to shy away from didactic art. Even his interviews are evasive. He has repeatedly suggested that while his films are certainly loaded with difficult ideas, he won’t be the one to unpack them. His films have to do the talking for him.

Screenshots from Showmax

Spring Breakers isn’t necessarily pro-Bacchanalian drug-fest, but Korine isn’t blind to the appeal. He sympathises with his characters and understands how desperately they want to transcend the routine of their lives. That’s why he offers us Faith (Gomez) as a way into the film. Ostensibly the film’s protagonist – and virtually the only character with any level of interiority – she is solid enough to anchor the audience within this manic world. She’s Christian, but only really half committed. She’s gentler than her friends, but no saint either. Like so many of us, embedding ourselves in astrology, crystals and self-help guides, she’s searching for something – anything – that can transcend an existence that feels increasingly random and mundane. She needs a place to put her faith.

 

Her campus youth pastor seems to understand that at some level. There’s an element of performance to his group sermons, which try to drag religion into the 21st century by asking questions like “Are you jacked up on Jesus?” He’s both an ugly parody and an elegy for a religion that has for millennia offered threads of certainty to bind up people’s fears. And he’s not entirely unsuccessful; some of the kids who partake are, it can be argued, jacked up on Jesus. Yet Faith is lost. She is also perfectly primed to use Spring Break as a stop-gap.

(Jeff Jarrett as the youth pastor. Jarrett is a professional wrestler and wrestling promotor, so he won’t be unfamiliar with bombast and performance)

It works, for a while. Once her friends have robbed the nearest “Chicken Shack,” the gang have enough money to make their way down to Florida, where they join in the fun. Faith finds her transcendence, not in prayer but in togetherness (laced with a fair amount of cocaine and alcohol). Korine doesn’t hold anything back in these party sequences, because – once again – he doesn’t want to. The party needs to be alluring, with its array of beautiful neon-lit bodies going wild for a moment in time. Between parties, Faith calls her grandmother, extolling without irony the virtues of this candy-coated world. Only the edit exposes the lie, intercutting her almost spiritual words with clips from the party (where shots of grinding crotches outnumber the shots of comfort and growth). Despite the winking of the edit, what matters is that she believes it. Maybe it’s true.

 

Later, in a pool with her friends, she declares that she has found her place. For a moment, she has grasped that light she was searching for, and she wishes she could hold onto it forever. What if we lived here? she wonders. What if this perfect week became a month, or a year? Our whole lives?

 

Alien

 

The girls are arrested a couple of scenes later, when they’re caught doing drugs at a party (not for the diner robbery, as you might expect). The movie pivots and Faith’s idle dreams twist and squirm into reality in the form of Alien (James Franco), who bails them out. Why does he bail these strangers out? Who knows? There certainly is something alien about Franco’s character – something other. Korine describes him as a shape-shifter, “a sort of cultural mash-up,” with his cornrows and grilles and status as an aspiring rapper.

 

He takes the girls back to a party of his own, in a pool hall that functions as a gritty mirror-world reflected below the glossy Spring Break. Where does he live? Here, of course. Where else? “Spring break forever,” he drawls in that Floridian accent. It’s as if Faith reaches through the mirror and sees her fantasies made flesh; she sees the logical endpoint of her dreams smiling back at her and she recoils. Then she flees, ripping out the film’s centre and sending us spinning.

 

The certainty we have in the story that’s being told dissolves, leaving us with nothing to hold onto, like we’re at a party at 2AM and we can’t find our friends and our head is spinning and we’re tired of being jostled and all we can make sense of is our existential despair. Brit, Candy and Cotty are – according to Korine – three parts of a single whole (the fourth being Faith), but they are left deliberately abstract, permanently stripped of both their shirts and their internal lives.

 

Douglas Crise’s editing compliments this break from simplicity. He eschews linearity, preferring instead to loop words and images, repeating the same shots of wild, half-naked spring breakers, stretching out Korine’s “micro-scenes” into something more hypnotic, stripping those scenes of any meaning or context until everything about spring break – and Alien’s darker mirror-world – blend together.

 

Alien is the harbinger of all this danger and chaos, but he also broadens and deepens the film’s scope. In many ways, he is a counterpart to Anton Yelchin’s drug dealer in Thoroughbreds. Both are low-level criminals with a distinctly creepy vibe, aping this larger, cooler criminal culture. Both are driven by this unquestioning belief that if they just hustle long enough, they’ll beat the system and hack the American Dream. Both ultimately fall prey to that dream, because they discover too late that the success they’re seeking has never, and could never, belong to them. It doesn’t even belong to the gangsters that Alien is mimicking (depicted by black actors, as opposed to the spring breakers, who are overwhelmingly white).

 

Enter Big Arch, the film’s antagonist and the leader of those gangsters. In a film full of clever meta-commentary, Alien’s nemesis/former mentor is perhaps the sharpest. Played by Gucci Mane (in his first acting role), Big Arch is a more sharply drawn image of success than Alien understands. Where Alien drives a nice-enough convertible with a license plate that reads “BALL R,” Arch cruises in a Lamborghini. Where Alien can’t think of greater success than having guns, tanning oil and shorts in every colour, Big Arch’s life looks as if it’s been ripped from a 2000s hip hop video. And that Venn diagram that so inextricably links hip hop culture, gangsterism and consumerism grows even more intricate when you consider that Mane – who named himself after Gucci – has spent a good deal of time in prison. The grotesque world these characters live in is reflected in our own. That extends to deeper issues as well, like race. I mention the race of the spring breakers (white) and the gangsters (black) above because of how conspicuous it is. Some early readings of the film condemned this choice, missing perhaps that it is a choice – it involved intent on the part of the filmmakers, not just prejudice.

 

Racial politics are built into the core of this film in ways that make them essential to unpack, even for those of us coming from a lived experience that is profoundly different. In an early scene, Brit and Candy fantasize about sex during a lecture about the civil rights movement and, more specifically, the liberation of black Americans in the south. Later, those same girls hold a gun to a black man’s head while they rob him of the money that will get them to their Spring Break. Gangsterism and the tentacles it has in modern culture, vile though they may be, are an attempt by the disenfranchised to liberate themselves – to seize power and agency – within a society that has robbed them of that choice. Big Arch has attained ultimate success within that world, yet he is gunned down by two young girls all the same, because that success is something he has to steal. It’s an imitation of the American Dream, but the real thing is owned by people larger and richer and scarier than Big Arch could ever be. Alien was never more than an imitation of an imitation, doomed to die before the film’s climax even takes shape.

 

Richard Brody, of the New Yorker, makes a fascinating point about the film in his review: the lighting in the climax renders Brit and Candy’s skin almost black (Alien’s skin remains significantly whiter throughout the sequence). These girls – “the top girls,” as Korine calls them – now stripped of their morality in the form of Faith, become the real aliens. They are not of this world and so they are not beholden to it. They march through Big Arch’s defenses in their fluorescent bikinis, untouched and untouchable, primed to take this world by the time they’ve spent in the glossier, but equally greedy, mirror-world they came from. When they’re done, they can shift their shapes back, call their mothers and promise to be good girls, content in the certainty that comes from existing within the system, not outside it.

(Brit and Candy gun down one of Big Arch’s guys)

Korine and Crise intercut the endless micro-scenes of Spring Break revelry with the harder, harsher, Floridian underbelly to make it clear that these things are not so different. The party-goers and the gangsters are all driven by an individualistic drive to get more. They all seek to transcend, but it’s Brit and Candy who come out on top because the sociopathy derived from their hedonism is rewarded within their world, while it ultimately destroys everyone in Arch’s world. The girls are divorced from the consequences of Arch’s world. There’s never so much of a whiff of trouble over the diner robbery. When the girls do get arrested for drug use, they get a citation that won’t reflect on their criminal records. What would have happened to Big Arch in that courtroom? The horror of this film is not that Brit and Candy ultimately descend into hell – it’s that they’re already there, and they think it’s heaven.

 

Despite all of this, the film somehow isn’t the least bit dour. All of those hypnotic elements Korine laces into the film give it a bright, repetitive energy, more akin to a pop song than a traditional film. The film embraces the neon glow of those excesses even as it condemns the entire rotten system they’re stacked upon. It is – dare I say it – Wolf of Wall Street, with ninety minutes trimmed away, and more butts.

 

The film finds warmth and beauty, too, in its quieter moments. Korine offers a solution to Faith’s search for transcendence halfway through the film, when the girls are united and happy in their togetherness. Over and over, greed pushes the characters into increasing isolation: Alien once taught Arch how to swim – they were best friends until Alien’s desire for money trumped the relationship. The girls are four parts of a whole, in Korine’s mind, yet the party drives them apart. The gross individualism and the race to the top that drives the spring breakers and the gangsters alike is exquisite for a moment, but as with the film’s endlessly looping images, increasingly empty and meaningless. They’re looking for the light in the wrong place. Only Faith, faced with Alien - the leering, funhouse-mirror version of her – sees that. She does the only thing any of us can do – she rejects it.

Essays

/

Contact

2020 © Derrick Brak

 \ 
Spring Breakers Spring Breakers

Faith

 

Few movies of the past decade were more controversial than Spring Breakers. Even fewer seemed as calibrated to provoke. When the first trailer dropped early in 2013, reactions were predictable. Replete with half-naked (former) child stars committing acts of extreme violence, all for a giant party, the trailer was a signal of intent. It seemed as though this was going to be the empty, hedonistic vehicle that would allow those stars to cast off their Disney-fied images and enter the world of adulthood. It’s a journey most child stars eventually make, but it is a journey rarely welcomed.

 

The casting of Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as these bikini-clad villains suggested that shock value was the intent – that the film was calculated to draw reactions from fans and media. Who would be able to look away from the corruption of their childhood icons? Director Harmony Korine would have been aware of what he was inviting when he made those decisions. When the film starts, he leans into it. He splashes bongs, butts and bare breasts across the screen for the first two minutes, reveling in the madness of spring break and all the debauchery it entails. “This is the film you’ve been so angry about”, he seems to say. “This is the film you’ve been waiting for.”

 

Harmony Korine is too smart to make that film. A teen romp that doubles as a simple, moralistic tale about vapid youth culture would have been the safe route, yet he seems to shy away from didactic art. Even his interviews are evasive. He has repeatedly suggested that while his films are certainly loaded with difficult ideas, he won’t be the one to unpack them. His films have to do the talking for him.

Screenshots from Showmax

Spring Breakers isn’t necessarily pro-Bacchanalian drug-fest, but Korine isn’t blind to the appeal. He sympathises with his characters and understands how desperately they want to transcend the routine of their lives. That’s why he offers us Faith (Gomez) as a way into the film. Ostensibly the film’s protagonist – and virtually the only character with any level of interiority – she is solid enough to anchor the audience within this manic world. She’s Christian, but only really half committed. She’s gentler than her friends, but no saint either. Like so many of us, embedding ourselves in astrology, crystals and self-help guides, she’s searching for something – anything – that can transcend an existence that feels increasingly random and mundane. She needs a place to put her faith.

 

Her campus youth pastor seems to understand that at some level. There’s an element of performance to his group sermons, which try to drag religion into the 21st century by asking questions like “Are you jacked up on Jesus?” He’s both an ugly parody and an elegy for a religion that has for millennia offered threads of certainty to bind up people’s fears. And he’s not entirely unsuccessful; some of the kids who partake are, it can be argued, jacked up on Jesus. Yet Faith is lost. She is also perfectly primed to use Spring Break as a stop-gap.

(Jeff Jarrett as the youth pastor. Jarrett is a professional wrestler and wrestling promotor, so he won’t be unfamiliar with bombast and performance)

It works, for a while. Once her friends have robbed the nearest “Chicken Shack,” the gang have enough money to make their way down to Florida, where they join in the fun. Faith finds her transcendence, not in prayer but in togetherness (laced with a fair amount of cocaine and alcohol). Korine doesn’t hold anything back in these party sequences, because – once again – he doesn’t want to. The party needs to be alluring, with its array of beautiful neon-lit bodies going wild for a moment in time. Between parties, Faith calls her grandmother, extolling without irony the virtues of this candy-coated world. Only the edit exposes the lie, intercutting her almost spiritual words with clips from the party (where shots of grinding crotches outnumber the shots of comfort and growth). Despite the winking of the edit, what matters is that she believes it. Maybe it’s true.

 

Later, in a pool with her friends, she declares that she has found her place. For a moment, she has grasped that light she was searching for, and she wishes she could hold onto it forever. What if we lived here? she wonders. What if this perfect week became a month, or a year? Our whole lives?

 

Alien

 

The girls are arrested a couple of scenes later, when they’re caught doing drugs at a party (not for the diner robbery, as you might expect). The movie pivots and Faith’s idle dreams twist and squirm into reality in the form of Alien (James Franco), who bails them out. Why does he bail these strangers out? Who knows? There certainly is something alien about Franco’s character – something other. Korine describes him as a shape-shifter, “a sort of cultural mash-up,” with his cornrows and grilles and status as an aspiring rapper.

 

He takes the girls back to a party of his own, in a pool hall that functions as a gritty mirror-world reflected below the glossy Spring Break. Where does he live? Here, of course. Where else? “Spring break forever,” he drawls in that Floridian accent. It’s as if Faith reaches through the mirror and sees her fantasies made flesh; she sees the logical endpoint of her dreams smiling back at her and she recoils. Then she flees, ripping out the film’s centre and sending us spinning.

 

The certainty we have in the story that’s being told dissolves, leaving us with nothing to hold onto, like we’re at a party at 2AM and we can’t find our friends and our head is spinning and we’re tired of being jostled and all we can make sense of is our existential despair. Brit, Candy and Cotty are – according to Korine – three parts of a single whole (the fourth being Faith), but they are left deliberately abstract, permanently stripped of both their shirts and their internal lives.

 

Douglas Crise’s editing compliments this break from simplicity. He eschews linearity, preferring instead to loop words and images, repeating the same shots of wild, half-naked spring breakers, stretching out Korine’s “micro-scenes” into something more hypnotic, stripping those scenes of any meaning or context until everything about spring break – and Alien’s darker mirror-world – blend together.

 

Alien is the harbinger of all this danger and chaos, but he also broadens and deepens the film’s scope. In many ways, he is a counterpart to Anton Yelchin’s drug dealer in Thoroughbreds. Both are low-level criminals with a distinctly creepy vibe, aping this larger, cooler criminal culture. Both are driven by this unquestioning belief that if they just hustle long enough, they’ll beat the system and hack the American Dream. Both ultimately fall prey to that dream, because they discover too late that the success they’re seeking has never, and could never, belong to them. It doesn’t even belong to the gangsters that Alien is mimicking (depicted by black actors, as opposed to the spring breakers, who are overwhelmingly white).

 

Enter Big Arch, the film’s antagonist and the leader of those gangsters. In a film full of clever meta-commentary, Alien’s nemesis/former mentor is perhaps the sharpest. Played by Gucci Mane (in his first acting role), Big Arch is a more sharply drawn image of success than Alien understands. Where Alien drives a nice-enough convertible with a license plate that reads “BALL R,” Arch cruises in a Lamborghini. Where Alien can’t think of greater success than having guns, tanning oil and shorts in every colour, Big Arch’s life looks as if it’s been ripped from a 2000s hip hop video. And that Venn diagram that so inextricably links hip hop culture, gangsterism and consumerism grows even more intricate when you consider that Mane – who named himself after Gucci – has spent a good deal of time in prison. The grotesque world these characters live in is reflected in our own. That extends to deeper issues as well, like race. I mention the race of the spring breakers (white) and the gangsters (black) above because of how conspicuous it is. Some early readings of the film condemned this choice, missing perhaps that it is a choice – it involved intent on the part of the filmmakers, not just prejudice.

 

Racial politics are built into the core of this film in ways that make them essential to unpack, even for those of us coming from a lived experience that is profoundly different. In an early scene, Brit and Candy fantasize about sex during a lecture about the civil rights movement and, more specifically, the liberation of black Americans in the south. Later, those same girls hold a gun to a black man’s head while they rob him of the money that will get them to their Spring Break. Gangsterism and the tentacles it has in modern culture, vile though they may be, are an attempt by the disenfranchised to liberate themselves – to seize power and agency – within a society that has robbed them of that choice. Big Arch has attained ultimate success within that world, yet he is gunned down by two young girls all the same, because that success is something he has to steal. It’s an imitation of the American Dream, but the real thing is owned by people larger and richer and scarier than Big Arch could ever be. Alien was never more than an imitation of an imitation, doomed to die before the film’s climax even takes shape.

 

Richard Brody, of the New Yorker, makes a fascinating point about the film in his review: the lighting in the climax renders Brit and Candy’s skin almost black (Alien’s skin remains significantly whiter throughout the sequence). These girls – “the top girls,” as Korine calls them – now stripped of their morality in the form of Faith, become the real aliens. They are not of this world and so they are not beholden to it. They march through Big Arch’s defenses in their fluorescent bikinis, untouched and untouchable, primed to take this world by the time they’ve spent in the glossier, but equally greedy, mirror-world they came from. When they’re done, they can shift their shapes back, call their mothers and promise to be good girls, content in the certainty that comes from existing within the system, not outside it.

(Brit and Candy gun down one of Big Arch’s guys)

Korine and Crise intercut the endless micro-scenes of Spring Break revelry with the harder, harsher, Floridian underbelly to make it clear that these things are not so different. The party-goers and the gangsters are all driven by an individualistic drive to get more. They all seek to transcend, but it’s Brit and Candy who come out on top because the sociopathy derived from their hedonism is rewarded within their world, while it ultimately destroys everyone in Arch’s world. The girls are divorced from the consequences of Arch’s world. There’s never so much of a whiff of trouble over the diner robbery. When the girls do get arrested for drug use, they get a citation that won’t reflect on their criminal records. What would have happened to Big Arch in that courtroom? The horror of this film is not that Brit and Candy ultimately descend into hell – it’s that they’re already there, and they think it’s heaven.

 

Despite all of this, the film somehow isn’t the least bit dour. All of those hypnotic elements Korine laces into the film give it a bright, repetitive energy, more akin to a pop song than a traditional film. The film embraces the neon glow of those excesses even as it condemns the entire rotten system they’re stacked upon. It is – dare I say it – Wolf of Wall Street, with ninety minutes trimmed away, and more butts.

 

The film finds warmth and beauty, too, in its quieter moments. Korine offers a solution to Faith’s search for transcendence halfway through the film, when the girls are united and happy in their togetherness. Over and over, greed pushes the characters into increasing isolation: Alien once taught Arch how to swim – they were best friends until Alien’s desire for money trumped the relationship. The girls are four parts of a whole, in Korine’s mind, yet the party drives them apart. The gross individualism and the race to the top that drives the spring breakers and the gangsters alike is exquisite for a moment, but as with the film’s endlessly looping images, increasingly empty and meaningless. They’re looking for the light in the wrong place. Only Faith, faced with Alien - the leering, funhouse-mirror version of her – sees that. She does the only thing any of us can do – she rejects it.

Essays

/

Contact

2020 © Derrick Brak

\
 
Spring Breakers Spring Breakers

Contains explicit content

Faith

 

Few movies of the past decade were more controversial than Spring Breakers. Even fewer seemed as calibrated to provoke. When the first trailer dropped early in 2013, reactions were predictable. Replete with half-naked (former) child stars committing acts of extreme violence, all for a giant party, the trailer was a signal of intent. It seemed as though this was going to be the empty, hedonistic vehicle that would allow those stars to cast off their Disney-fied images and enter the world of adulthood. It’s a journey most child stars eventually make, but it is a journey rarely welcomed.

 

The casting of Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as these bikini-clad villains suggested that shock value was the intent – that the film was calculated to draw reactions from fans and media. Who would be able to look away from the corruption of their childhood icons? Director Harmony Korine would have been aware of what he was inviting when he made those decisions. When the film starts, he leans into it. He splashes bongs, butts and bare breasts across the screen for the first two minutes, reveling in the madness of spring break and all the debauchery it entails. “This is the film you’ve been so angry about”, he seems to say. “This is the film you’ve been waiting for.”

 

Harmony Korine is too smart to make that film. A teen romp that doubles as a simple, moralistic tale about vapid youth culture would have been the safe route, yet he seems to shy away from didactic art. Even his interviews are evasive. He has repeatedly suggested that while his films are certainly loaded with difficult ideas, he won’t be the one to unpack them. His films have to do the talking for him.

Screenshots from Showmax

Spring Breakers isn’t necessarily pro-Bacchanalian drug-fest, but Korine isn’t blind to the appeal. He sympathises with his characters and understands how desperately they want to transcend the routine of their lives. That’s why he offers us Faith (Gomez) as a way into the film. Ostensibly the film’s protagonist – and virtually the only character with any level of interiority – she is solid enough to anchor the audience within this manic world. She’s Christian, but only really half committed. She’s gentler than her friends, but no saint either. Like so many of us, embedding ourselves in astrology, crystals and self-help guides, she’s searching for something – anything – that can transcend an existence that feels increasingly random and mundane. She needs a place to put her faith.

 

Her campus youth pastor seems to understand that at some level. There’s an element of performance to his group sermons, which try to drag religion into the 21st century by asking questions like “Are you jacked up on Jesus?” He’s both an ugly parody and an elegy for a religion that has for millennia offered threads of certainty to bind up people’s fears. And he’s not entirely unsuccessful; some of the kids who partake are, it can be argued, jacked up on Jesus. Yet Faith is lost. She is also perfectly primed to use Spring Break as a stop-gap.

(Jeff Jarrett as the youth pastor. Jarrett is a professional wrestler and wrestling promotor, so he won’t be unfamiliar with bombast and performance)

It works, for a while. Once her friends have robbed the nearest “Chicken Shack,” the gang have enough money to make their way down to Florida, where they join in the fun. Faith finds her transcendence, not in prayer but in togetherness (laced with a fair amount of cocaine and alcohol). Korine doesn’t hold anything back in these party sequences, because – once again – he doesn’t want to. The party needs to be alluring, with its array of beautiful neon-lit bodies going wild for a moment in time. Between parties, Faith calls her grandmother, extolling without irony the virtues of this candy-coated world. Only the edit exposes the lie, intercutting her almost spiritual words with clips from the party (where shots of grinding crotches outnumber the shots of comfort and growth). Despite the winking of the edit, what matters is that she believes it. Maybe it’s true.

 

Later, in a pool with her friends, she declares that she has found her place. For a moment, she has grasped that light she was searching for, and she wishes she could hold onto it forever. What if we lived here? she wonders. What if this perfect week became a month, or a year? Our whole lives?

 

Alien

 

The girls are arrested a couple of scenes later, when they’re caught doing drugs at a party (not for the diner robbery, as you might expect). The movie pivots and Faith’s idle dreams twist and squirm into reality in the form of Alien (James Franco), who bails them out. Why does he bail these strangers out? Who knows? There certainly is something alien about Franco’s character – something other. Korine describes him as a shape-shifter, “a sort of cultural mash-up,” with his cornrows and grilles and status as an aspiring rapper.

 

He takes the girls back to a party of his own, in a pool hall that functions as a gritty mirror-world reflected below the glossy Spring Break. Where does he live? Here, of course. Where else? “Spring break forever,” he drawls in that Floridian accent. It’s as if Faith reaches through the mirror and sees her fantasies made flesh; she sees the logical endpoint of her dreams smiling back at her and she recoils. Then she flees, ripping out the film’s centre and sending us spinning.

 

The certainty we have in the story that’s being told dissolves, leaving us with nothing to hold onto, like we’re at a party at 2AM and we can’t find our friends and our head is spinning and we’re tired of being jostled and all we can make sense of is our existential despair. Brit, Candy and Cotty are – according to Korine – three parts of a single whole (the fourth being Faith), but they are left deliberately abstract, permanently stripped of both their shirts and their internal lives.

 

Douglas Crise’s editing compliments this break from simplicity. He eschews linearity, preferring instead to loop words and images, repeating the same shots of wild, half-naked spring breakers, stretching out Korine’s “micro-scenes” into something more hypnotic, stripping those scenes of any meaning or context until everything about spring break – and Alien’s darker mirror-world – blend together.

 

Alien is the harbinger of all this danger and chaos, but he also broadens and deepens the film’s scope. In many ways, he is a counterpart to Anton Yelchin’s drug dealer in Thoroughbreds. Both are low-level criminals with a distinctly creepy vibe, aping this larger, cooler criminal culture. Both are driven by this unquestioning belief that if they just hustle long enough, they’ll beat the system and hack the American Dream. Both ultimately fall prey to that dream, because they discover too late that the success they’re seeking has never, and could never, belong to them. It doesn’t even belong to the gangsters that Alien is mimicking (depicted by black actors, as opposed to the spring breakers, who are overwhelmingly white).

 

Enter Big Arch, the film’s antagonist and the leader of those gangsters. In a film full of clever meta-commentary, Alien’s nemesis/former mentor is perhaps the sharpest. Played by Gucci Mane (in his first acting role), Big Arch is a more sharply drawn image of success than Alien understands. Where Alien drives a nice-enough convertible with a license plate that reads “BALL R,” Arch cruises in a Lamborghini. Where Alien can’t think of greater success than having guns, tanning oil and shorts in every colour, Big Arch’s life looks as if it’s been ripped from a 2000s hip hop video. And that Venn diagram that so inextricably links hip hop culture, gangsterism and consumerism grows even more intricate when you consider that Mane – who named himself after Gucci – has spent a good deal of time in prison. The grotesque world these characters live in is reflected in our own. That extends to deeper issues as well, like race. I mention the race of the spring breakers (white) and the gangsters (black) above because of how conspicuous it is. Some early readings of the film condemned this choice, missing perhaps that it is a choice – it involved intent on the part of the filmmakers, not just prejudice.

 

Racial politics are built into the core of this film in ways that make them essential to unpack, even for those of us coming from a lived experience that is profoundly different. In an early scene, Brit and Candy fantasize about sex during a lecture about the civil rights movement and, more specifically, the liberation of black Americans in the south. Later, those same girls hold a gun to a black man’s head while they rob him of the money that will get them to their Spring Break. Gangsterism and the tentacles it has in modern culture, vile though they may be, are an attempt by the disenfranchised to liberate themselves – to seize power and agency – within a society that has robbed them of that choice. Big Arch has attained ultimate success within that world, yet he is gunned down by two young girls all the same, because that success is something he has to steal. It’s an imitation of the American Dream, but the real thing is owned by people larger and richer and scarier than Big Arch could ever be. Alien was never more than an imitation of an imitation, doomed to die before the film’s climax even takes shape.

 

Richard Brody, of the New Yorker, makes a fascinating point about the film in his review: the lighting in the climax renders Brit and Candy’s skin almost black (Alien’s skin remains significantly whiter throughout the sequence). These girls – “the top girls,” as Korine calls them – now stripped of their morality in the form of Faith, become the real aliens. They are not of this world and so they are not beholden to it. They march through Big Arch’s defenses in their fluorescent bikinis, untouched and untouchable, primed to take this world by the time they’ve spent in the glossier, but equally greedy, mirror-world they came from. When they’re done, they can shift their shapes back, call their mothers and promise to be good girls, content in the certainty that comes from existing within the system, not outside it.

(Brit and Candy gun down one of Big Arch’s guys)

Korine and Crise intercut the endless micro-scenes of Spring Break revelry with the harder, harsher, Floridian underbelly to make it clear that these things are not so different. The party-goers and the gangsters are all driven by an individualistic drive to get more. They all seek to transcend, but it’s Brit and Candy who come out on top because the sociopathy derived from their hedonism is rewarded within their world, while it ultimately destroys everyone in Arch’s world. The girls are divorced from the consequences of Arch’s world. There’s never so much of a whiff of trouble over the diner robbery. When the girls do get arrested for drug use, they get a citation that won’t reflect on their criminal records. What would have happened to Big Arch in that courtroom? The horror of this film is not that Brit and Candy ultimately descend into hell – it’s that they’re already there, and they think it’s heaven.

 

Despite all of this, the film somehow isn’t the least bit dour. All of those hypnotic elements Korine laces into the film give it a bright, repetitive energy, more akin to a pop song than a traditional film. The film embraces the neon glow of those excesses even as it condemns the entire rotten system they’re stacked upon. It is – dare I say it – Wolf of Wall Street, with ninety minutes trimmed away, and more butts.

 

The film finds warmth and beauty, too, in its quieter moments. Korine offers a solution to Faith’s search for transcendence halfway through the film, when the girls are united and happy in their togetherness. Over and over, greed pushes the characters into increasing isolation: Alien once taught Arch how to swim – they were best friends until Alien’s desire for money trumped the relationship. The girls are four parts of a whole, in Korine’s mind, yet the party drives them apart. The gross individualism and the race to the top that drives the spring breakers and the gangsters alike is exquisite for a moment, but as with the film’s endlessly looping images, increasingly empty and meaningless. They’re looking for the light in the wrong place. Only Faith, faced with Alien - the leering, funhouse-mirror version of her – sees that. She does the only thing any of us can do – she rejects it.

Essays

/

Contact

2020 © Derrick Brak

 \ 
Spring Breakers

Contains explicit content

Faith

 

Few movies of the past decade were more controversial than Spring Breakers. Even fewer seemed as calibrated to provoke. When the first trailer dropped early in 2013, reactions were predictable. Replete with half-naked (former) child stars committing acts of extreme violence, all for a giant party, the trailer was a signal of intent. It seemed as though this was going to be the empty, hedonistic vehicle that would allow those stars to cast off their Disney-fied images and enter the world of adulthood. It’s a journey most child stars eventually make, but it is a journey rarely welcomed.

 

The casting of Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez as these bikini-clad villains suggested that shock value was the intent – that the film was calculated to draw reactions from fans and media. Who would be able to look away from the corruption of their childhood icons? Director Harmony Korine would have been aware of what he was inviting when he made those decisions. When the film starts, he leans into it. He splashes bongs, butts and bare breasts across the screen for the first two minutes, reveling in the madness of spring break and all the debauchery it entails. “This is the film you’ve been so angry about”, he seems to say. “This is the film you’ve been waiting for.”

 

Harmony Korine is too smart to make that film. A teen romp that doubles as a simple, moralistic tale about vapid youth culture would have been the safe route, yet he seems to shy away from didactic art. Even his interviews are evasive. He has repeatedly suggested that while his films are certainly loaded with difficult ideas, he won’t be the one to unpack them. His films have to do the talking for him.

Screenshots from Showmax

Spring Breakers isn’t necessarily pro-Bacchanalian drug-fest, but Korine isn’t blind to the appeal. He sympathises with his characters and understands how desperately they want to transcend the routine of their lives. That’s why he offers us Faith (Gomez) as a way into the film. Ostensibly the film’s protagonist – and virtually the only character with any level of interiority – she is solid enough to anchor the audience within this manic world. She’s Christian, but only really half committed. She’s gentler than her friends, but no saint either. Like so many of us, embedding ourselves in astrology, crystals and self-help guides, she’s searching for something – anything – that can transcend an existence that feels increasingly random and mundane. She needs a place to put her faith.

 

Her campus youth pastor seems to understand that at some level. There’s an element of performance to his group sermons, which try to drag religion into the 21st century by asking questions like “Are you jacked up on Jesus?” He’s both an ugly parody and an elegy for a religion that has for millennia offered threads of certainty to bind up people’s fears. And he’s not entirely unsuccessful; some of the kids who partake are, it can be argued, jacked up on Jesus. Yet Faith is lost. She is also perfectly primed to use Spring Break as a stop-gap.

(Jeff Jarrett as the youth pastor. Jarrett is a professional wrestler and wrestling promotor, so he won’t be unfamiliar with bombast and performance)

It works, for a while. Once her friends have robbed the nearest “Chicken Shack,” the gang have enough money to make their way down to Florida, where they join in the fun. Faith finds her transcendence, not in prayer but in togetherness (laced with a fair amount of cocaine and alcohol). Korine doesn’t hold anything back in these party sequences, because – once again – he doesn’t want to. The party needs to be alluring, with its array of beautiful neon-lit bodies going wild for a moment in time. Between parties, Faith calls her grandmother, extolling without irony the virtues of this candy-coated world. Only the edit exposes the lie, intercutting her almost spiritual words with clips from the party (where shots of grinding crotches outnumber the shots of comfort and growth). Despite the winking of the edit, what matters is that she believes it. Maybe it’s true.

 

Later, in a pool with her friends, she declares that she has found her place. For a moment, she has grasped that light she was searching for, and she wishes she could hold onto it forever. What if we lived here? she wonders. What if this perfect week became a month, or a year? Our whole lives?

 

Alien

 

The girls are arrested a couple of scenes later, when they’re caught doing drugs at a party (not for the diner robbery, as you might expect). The movie pivots and Faith’s idle dreams twist and squirm into reality in the form of Alien (James Franco), who bails them out. Why does he bail these strangers out? Who knows? There certainly is something alien about Franco’s character – something other. Korine describes him as a shape-shifter, “a sort of cultural mash-up,” with his cornrows and grilles and status as an aspiring rapper.

 

He takes the girls back to a party of his own, in a pool hall that functions as a gritty mirror-world reflected below the glossy Spring Break. Where does he live? Here, of course. Where else? “Spring break forever,” he drawls in that Floridian accent. It’s as if Faith reaches through the mirror and sees her fantasies made flesh; she sees the logical endpoint of her dreams smiling back at her and she recoils. Then she flees, ripping out the film’s centre and sending us spinning.

 

The certainty we have in the story that’s being told dissolves, leaving us with nothing to hold onto, like we’re at a party at 2AM and we can’t find our friends and our head is spinning and we’re tired of being jostled and all we can make sense of is our existential despair. Brit, Candy and Cotty are – according to Korine – three parts of a single whole (the fourth being Faith), but they are left deliberately abstract, permanently stripped of both their shirts and their internal lives.

 

Douglas Crise’s editing compliments this break from simplicity. He eschews linearity, preferring instead to loop words and images, repeating the same shots of wild, half-naked spring breakers, stretching out Korine’s “micro-scenes” into something more hypnotic, stripping those scenes of any meaning or context until everything about spring break – and Alien’s darker mirror-world – blend together.

 

Alien is the harbinger of all this danger and chaos, but he also broadens and deepens the film’s scope. In many ways, he is a counterpart to Anton Yelchin’s drug dealer in Thoroughbreds. Both are low-level criminals with a distinctly creepy vibe, aping this larger, cooler criminal culture. Both are driven by this unquestioning belief that if they just hustle long enough, they’ll beat the system and hack the American Dream. Both ultimately fall prey to that dream, because they discover too late that the success they’re seeking has never, and could never, belong to them. It doesn’t even belong to the gangsters that Alien is mimicking (depicted by black actors, as opposed to the spring breakers, who are overwhelmingly white).

 

Enter Big Arch, the film’s antagonist and the leader of those gangsters. In a film full of clever meta-commentary, Alien’s nemesis/former mentor is perhaps the sharpest. Played by Gucci Mane (in his first acting role), Big Arch is a more sharply drawn image of success than Alien understands. Where Alien drives a nice-enough convertible with a license plate that reads “BALL R,” Arch cruises in a Lamborghini. Where Alien can’t think of greater success than having guns, tanning oil and shorts in every colour, Big Arch’s life looks as if it’s been ripped from a 2000s hip hop video. And that Venn diagram that so inextricably links hip hop culture, gangsterism and consumerism grows even more intricate when you consider that Mane – who named himself after Gucci – has spent a good deal of time in prison. The grotesque world these characters live in is reflected in our own. That extends to deeper issues as well, like race. I mention the race of the spring breakers (white) and the gangsters (black) above because of how conspicuous it is. Some early readings of the film condemned this choice, missing perhaps that it is a choice – it involved intent on the part of the filmmakers, not just prejudice.

 

Racial politics are built into the core of this film in ways that make them essential to unpack, even for those of us coming from a lived experience that is profoundly different. In an early scene, Brit and Candy fantasize about sex during a lecture about the civil rights movement and, more specifically, the liberation of black Americans in the south. Later, those same girls hold a gun to a black man’s head while they rob him of the money that will get them to their Spring Break. Gangsterism and the tentacles it has in modern culture, vile though they may be, are an attempt by the disenfranchised to liberate themselves – to seize power and agency – within a society that has robbed them of that choice. Big Arch has attained ultimate success within that world, yet he is gunned down by two young girls all the same, because that success is something he has to steal. It’s an imitation of the American Dream, but the real thing is owned by people larger and richer and scarier than Big Arch could ever be. Alien was never more than an imitation of an imitation, doomed to die before the film’s climax even takes shape.

 

Richard Brody, of the New Yorker, makes a fascinating point about the film in his review: the lighting in the climax renders Brit and Candy’s skin almost black (Alien’s skin remains significantly whiter throughout the sequence). These girls – “the top girls,” as Korine calls them – now stripped of their morality in the form of Faith, become the real aliens. They are not of this world and so they are not beholden to it. They march through Big Arch’s defenses in their fluorescent bikinis, untouched and untouchable, primed to take this world by the time they’ve spent in the glossier, but equally greedy, mirror-world they came from. When they’re done, they can shift their shapes back, call their mothers and promise to be good girls, content in the certainty that comes from existing within the system, not outside it.

(Brit and Candy gun down one of Big Arch’s guys)

Korine and Crise intercut the endless micro-scenes of Spring Break revelry with the harder, harsher, Floridian underbelly to make it clear that these things are not so different. The party-goers and the gangsters are all driven by an individualistic drive to get more. They all seek to transcend, but it’s Brit and Candy who come out on top because the sociopathy derived from their hedonism is rewarded within their world, while it ultimately destroys everyone in Arch’s world. The girls are divorced from the consequences of Arch’s world. There’s never so much of a whiff of trouble over the diner robbery. When the girls do get arrested for drug use, they get a citation that won’t reflect on their criminal records. What would have happened to Big Arch in that courtroom? The horror of this film is not that Brit and Candy ultimately descend into hell – it’s that they’re already there, and they think it’s heaven.

 

Despite all of this, the film somehow isn’t the least bit dour. All of those hypnotic elements Korine laces into the film give it a bright, repetitive energy, more akin to a pop song than a traditional film. The film embraces the neon glow of those excesses even as it condemns the entire rotten system they’re stacked upon. It is – dare I say it – Wolf of Wall Street, with ninety minutes trimmed away, and more butts.

 

The film finds warmth and beauty, too, in its quieter moments. Korine offers a solution to Faith’s search for transcendence halfway through the film, when the girls are united and happy in their togetherness. Over and over, greed pushes the characters into increasing isolation: Alien once taught Arch how to swim – they were best friends until Alien’s desire for money trumped the relationship. The girls are four parts of a whole, in Korine’s mind, yet the party drives them apart. The gross individualism and the race to the top that drives the spring breakers and the gangsters alike is exquisite for a moment, but as with the film’s endlessly looping images, increasingly empty and meaningless. They’re looking for the light in the wrong place. Only Faith, faced with Alien - the leering, funhouse-mirror version of her – sees that. She does the only thing any of us can do – she rejects it.

2020 © Derrick Brak

 \ 