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Spring Breakers

Being a fan of bizarre director Harmony Korine, a friend of mine who went to a pre-screening of “Spring Breakers” with me had lots to say about the final product, but nevertheless concluded that he was happy he didn’t have to analyze it like I did. He was happy he could watch it for what it was, know why he liked or didn’t like it, but never have to fully explain it. Because, frankly, how do you explain a movie like this? “Spring Breakers” is nutty, surreal and just plain weird and, if I’m being honest, I’m not quite sure what I think of it. As a product that breaks the cinematic norm, I’m fascinated by and appreciate it, but a value of its cinematic worth is hard to assess. What does this movie have to say? Sadly, I’m not sure it says much of anything.

The story begins innocently enough. Spring break is approaching and a group of college friends want to live it up in Florida. There’s the aptly named Faith (Selena Gomez), the religious one, and then the other three, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), who, personality-wise at least, are indistinguishable from each other. They’re the crazy ones and when they realize they don’t have enough money for their trip, they decide to rob a local chicken shack. Once down there, they find themselves in a bit of trouble, only to be rescued by a rapper/drug and arms dealer/self-proclaimed being from another planet named (nicknamed?) Alien (James Franco).

And from there, the movie gets so wild, I don’t know what to make of it. If Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed, early reviews have noted the “stinging social commentary” the movie presents, though what that commentary is isn’t actually specified. Some may claim it’s about the degradation of American youth or the destructiveness of their reckless behavior, but it’s an argument that’s hard to swallow. The film is so absurd at times, so ridiculously over-the-top (particularly during its conclusion), that it’s hard to take seriously. It’s not so much an analysis of rebellious youth culture as a gross exaggeration. At times, the movie even appears to be analyzing the idea of faith by surrounding the peacefulness and kindness of religion when surrounded and confronted by evildoers. Can it really hold strong and protect us in dangerous and unpleasant situations? But then the movie turns its back on the idea, content to follow its unusual narrative path.

When “Spring Breakers” ends, it’s hard not to ask: what was the point of that? With all the gratuitous nudity and graphic violence, much of which is superfluous to the actual story, perhaps the argument can be made that the movie is pointing the camera back at our own perversions. The four girls, all of whom look barely legal, are almost never in anything but bikinis. Even after they’ve been arrested, thrown in jail and appear in court in front of a judge, the bikinis remain, which is itself a bit ridiculous. Perhaps it’s an experiment to see how many of us are willing to dish out money to satisfy our own lustful, shameful urges. With a director like Harmony Korine, it’s certainly a possibility, but such ideas are speculative at best.

Nevertheless, “Spring Breakers” remains oddly fascinating. Although it’s hard to tell what the movie is going for, particularly in its tone, where it seems to switch from drama to extremely dark comedy in the blink of an eye, it remains watchable, particularly for film aficionados. Anyone else, those who are more used to traditional Hollywood fare, should steer clear. This movie isn’t for them, but rather the ones who don’t mind a movie wandering all over the place, both thematically and narratively. It’s for those who don’t mind a bit of pretentiousness in their directors because the places they take them are so memorable, they don’t mind putting up with some ego stroking. But while I was fascinated by it, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. It was too messy of a story and it lacked a focus that is needed to really pull in a viewer. That’s why, for the first time ever, I’m neither recommending it nor dissuading you to see it. I’ll let you make your own choice. “Spring Breakers” certainly has an audience, particularly those familiar with Harmony Korine’s work, and you know who you are.



Is “tween” a genre yet? If not, it should be. With crap like Twilight and the recent I Am Number Four flooding screens, it seems like a necessity. Those who venture to the theater to see these things need to be prepared for what they’re getting: an angsty, pity me film about alienation and a longing for love. Beastly is the latest of those to pander to the teenage demographic who sees every one of their measly little problems as an impassable hurdle. Still, the subject matter itself is not the problem. It’s the way it is carried out and Beastly is about as overbearing as it can possibly get.

Essentially, the film is a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in modern times. Alex Pettyfer plays Kyle, a smug, self involved pretty boy who values his looks over everything else. He’s the type of person who strokes his own ego while those around him enable him to do so. He bashes people who look different than him, including Kendra, played by Mary-Kate Olsen, whom he calls a “witch.” Well, as it turns out, she actually is a witch and she puts a spell on him. He suddenly becomes physically hideous and has one year to find someone to fall in love with him or he will be stuck like that forever. Enter Lindy, played by Vanessa Hudgens, who, by one of the most contrived scenarios you can possibly imagine, ends up living with Kyle and accepting him for who he is. Unfortunately, time is winding down and you can’t force love.

Although all films want you to feel a certain way about their characters, Beastly depends on it. Without proper care, the precise emotion you’re supposed to feel towards someone can be lost and that happens here. From the opening shots, where Kyle pretentiously watches himself work out in the mirror, to his subsequent speech where he boasts about his good looks to the student body, you know you’re not supposed to like him. The problem is he may not be a nice person, but his actions border on caricature. Instead of hating him, you just end up laughing at him for being such a pompous ass.

When he finally transforms into the hideous beast, you may find yourself laughing even harder. The make-up job is shoddy at best and includes visual touches like the word “suck” over the character’s left eye, which, in a rare moment of unintentional perception, is indicative of Pettyfer's acting skills. Pettyfer is, quite simply, dull. He has no charisma and no idea how to create a character. All he has going for him is his good looks, which is to say little at all. With this and I Am Number Four, Pettyfer is already responsible for two of the worst movies of the year. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll end up overtaking my entire “worst of” list.

In one of the most unfunny, unromantic, gag inducing films I’ve seen in a long while (that includes explanatory music with lyrics detailing exactly what has been going on up to that point), there is one shining light: Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Kyle’s blind tutor. Among the scoffs and jeers, he manages to deliver a few legitimately funny lines, which proves once and for all that no matter what movie he is in or what character he is playing, Neil Patrick Harris is awesome.

Of course, finding the positives in Beastly is like digging through mounds of manure to find a twenty dollar bill. The few moments of pleasantries don’t make up for the surrounding crap you have to sift through to find it.

Beastly receives 0.5/5