It’s like a bunch of white people watched a Lil Wayne video and then took all the metaphors literally, removed them from their cultural context, and then decided to emulate everything they saw in the rap video…
A lot of people critique Spring Breakers in this way: that it tries to be this or that rap video or gangster film and falls short. Or that the female protagonists are flat-footed, vapid, and — worst of all — anti-feminist . Of course it does, and of course they are. Isn’t that the point?
If I were to take a guess at what Harmony Korine — a man famous for both accurately and uncomfortably bottling The Collective Youth Experience and throwing it back in our faces — was aiming for here, I would say that he is only doing exactly that for a generation raised on Tumblr feeds and BuzzFeed(s), who are swimming the stream of an increasingly visual culture where something’s burning relevance accumulates with (or is signified by) play counts (not to be mistaken for substance or critical acclaim, although there can be overlap). Every single frame of the film feels precisely constructed for just that — maximum reblogs or virability or whatever you want to call it. See: James Franco as white-trash Florida wannabe rapper gangster with a silver grill. See: blonde paragons of the Disney Kingdom in bikinis, waving machine guns. Etc.
If I were to take a guess at what Spring Breakers was aiming to be, I’d say it’s precisely trying to be some idiot kids misinterpreted fantasy, built atop the trash heap of our current cultural mishmash — because what does that look like if not rap videos, action films, gangster epics, and sexual fantasies featuring hot girls in bikinis? I’m not saying all kids fantasize this way, but I don’t think it’s wrong to say that a lot of them might. (I’m also not claiming that it is responsible or particularly thoughtful to represent this idea in the way that Korine has here.)
I’d also argue that Spring Breakers true protagonist is Alien, who — by the time the credits roll — has managed to collect a harem of youthful, devoted, blonde teenagers who worship him, kill for him, and regularly sleep with him while swimming in his pool surrounded by his guns, money, and drugs. Sounds like the achingly common, albeit utterly misinformed, fantasy of Some Kid from Somewhere, doesn’t it?
(It’s no mistake that the phrase Alien whispers on loop during the final sequence goes something like, “It feels just like a dream, y’all. It feels just like a dream.” It is a dream — his dream.)
People who critique it based on the merit of its literal narrative are missing the point. This isn’t really a movie about guns, or drugs, or Spring Break, or about these four girls. It’s definitely not a film that’s about feminism, just because these four girls carry guns. It’s a fantasmic feeding frenzy — sympathetic to a youth culture caught up in the manic circle of Pop Culture Imitates Life Imitates Pop Culture Imitates Life, and how they live inside that ever tightening noose, until they grow out of it or die. (Or get back on the bus to home/nowhere.)
To me, Spring Breakers is a film about fantasy making, and the kinds of worlds we will carelessly imagine — or come to subconsciously expect — based on the imagery we’re provided in magazines, in movies, on the internet, on TV (which is, sometimes, just James Franco, James Franco, and James Franco).
I’m not saying it’s a good film, because I’ve interpreted it that way, or that it approaches this subject better or worse than any other film that’s tried. It’s just an opinion, and I’m sure it could be picked apart, and perhaps I’m being generous to a director who, at the end of his career, simply wanted to find a quick ass way to make a lot of fucking money.