Sunday, 28 April 2013


The last film I went to see at the cinema was the thought-provoking and somewhat mind-bending Spring Breakers. Like many, I had been anticipating the release of this movie since filming began. The promise of James Franco playing a Riff Raff-inspired rapper while surrounded by ex-Disney girls gone bad, with costumes by Heidi Bivens and direction from Harmony Korine, looked and sounded like the perfect combination of elements. However, I left feeling undecided about my thoughts. There were aspects that I loved and aspects that made me cringe involuntarily. Obviously a strong social commentary is being made, highlighted by the intended cartoonisation of violence ('Just pretend it's a fucking video game') and the documentation of the rape culture that appears to dominate Spring Break activities. Ultimately, though, my favourite parts of the film were visual.

The overall aesthetic is effective; the cotton-candy colour palettes and plush backpacks adopted by the four girls is a disconcerting contrast to their extreme behaviour that forces the viewer to question the innocence of these girls from the very beginning. The clip-art style unicorn logo that appears throughout the film - most memorably on the foreheads of the pink balaclavas worn in the 'Everytime' scene - becomes a symbol that represents the girls as a gang, a juxtaposition that brings us back to this idea of cartoonisation. Unfortunately, this collaboration Opening Ceremony have done with the film does not feature said balaclavas, but there is enough there for you to recreate your own fast food restaurant heist. Costume design was devised by Heidi Bivens (also a stylist whose previous credits include David Lynch's Inland Empire) and I think that the styling is one of the film's strongest parts. The girls run around in neon bikinis, trainers and flip-flops, with only exposed flesh, dollar bills and Red Cups for accessories. Bivens designed some pieces herself, but much of the girls' clothes came from American Apparel, Playboy, Hot Topic and Victoria's Secret, places she thought the characters would shop. I think the use of a brand like Victoria's Secret PINK is interesting, since they are something of a lifestyle brand that bases it's image on playful and girlish femininity, as well as American college vibes and beachwear. The way the characters in the film wear the clothes gives a darker side that counteracts the innocence and frivolity of a label like that.

The scene that sees the girl performing gun-assisted ballet was a perfect visual complete with bathing suits, 'DTF' sweatpants and the memorable unicorn balaclavas - if we can forget the excruciating sound of Alien's voice as he covers the classic Britney Spears ballad. The mesmerising montage that follows shows a string of violent break-ins and thefts committed by the girls and Alien, accompanied by the soft and innocent sound of Britney's voice, the classic Disney girl grown-up and gone awry.

(Above: Some of the character's outfits, Below: Custom Vans for the character of Candy)

Despite how audiences feel about the character of Alien, I applaud Franco's portrayal of the role. Despite the initial amusement of seeing him play a character so different from his usual self, I found it believable, even as someone who has watched just about everything he's ever done. His look is comprised mostly of cornrows, guns, and Jerm Jilla's Clay Candy weed and sizzurp chains.

Finally, I enjoyed the style of editing that was used. The repetition of certain scenes and diegetic elements as they were moved around, slowed-down, re-used and re-cut made for some dreamlike sequences that actually captured the sense of freedom felt by the protagonists in the most successful way. It was these slowed-down moments of reflection that made me want to remain invested in the film, instead of giving up on the unlikeable characters and their ambiguous intentions. 
The film is an overall visual and aural assault, with loud noises and even louder colours. As for whether I would recommend Korine's latest efforts, I'm still undecided. His work on films like Kids and Gummo are definitely in no danger of being overtaken. However, if you want to watch a film that will challenge and surprise you then it's worth a watch. Perhaps for James Franco's grillz alone.

(The 'Everytime' Scene)

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