There is a new style of camerawork that has been growing extremely popular among directors in recent years– which mostly consists of freehanded, extreme close-ups of the film’s characters. In my humble opinion, I find it as an incredibly irritating and lazy attempt to force the viewer to focus on the particular character’s emotions. Zooming in on an actor’s face so much that one can literally count the hairs up his or her nose is not crafty storytelling.
That’s not to say the shot is always a mistake. In fact, if used correctly, the shot can be quite effective. Bit it s a tool that should be used sparingly, or, if you’re like me, motion sickness is sure to endure. Along with recent flicks Cyrus and Les Misérables, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is the newest entry into this new fad, and the overuse of awkward camera angles is the least of it’s problems.
Four college girls become broke and desperate to go on a c-r-a-z-y spring break, so they decide to rob a joint nearby, and successfully so. Unfortunately, their c-r-a-z-y spring break is rudely interrupted when they are arrested for doing drugs. A local drug lord known as Alien (James Franco) bails them out, and it is only a downward spiral for the girls from there, when they become heavily involved in crime and drugs.
Structurally, the film is a mess. It is similar to the experience of watching a music video that attempts to tell a complete story within it’s 3-5 minute timeframe, but fails spectacularly. A good portion of the film it spent replaying uninteresting narration while something is happening, like a cruel spoof of a Terrence Malick film.
The only somewhat positive aspect of Spring Breakers is James Franco’s performance, which was inspired by Dangeruss, a rapper who resides in St. Petersburg, Florida (or, depending on who you ask, by rapper Riff Raff). His role as Alien is clearly different from anything we’re used to him doing, but it’s a performance that isn’t easy to swallow, because Alien is almost as annoying as he is a complete dolt.
In fact, just about every character in Spring Breakers fits that description rather well– stupid and annoying. Faith (Selena Gomez), is the only character who wasn’t totally unredeemable and didn’t seem to completely slaughter her brain cells in… erm, Key West? Miami? Malibu? Does it matter? Only she smartened up and bailed early, which is great and all, until you realize you’re stuck with the rest of the brats.
Korine doesn't even attempt to bother us with a central theme here, other than if you want something bad enough, you can do whatever you want to get it without suffering any terrible consequences – because, yay! Spring break! Between watching James Franco perform a hardcore blowjob on a pistol and watching bikini-clad teenagers destroy an entire drug empire with a pair of Uzi guns (entirely unscathed, mind you), it doesn’t matter whether you choose to take the film seriously or not. When the movie is halfway over and there still isn’t even one character who the audience has an ounce of sympathy for, it’s difficult to give the film the benefit of a doubt – it’s a total dud.