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Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:04 am

Breakers an unexpectedly sobering look at today’s youth

The first surprise of the 2013 film year, Harmony Korine’s 2012 Spring Breakers is a bold look at today’s younger generation, portraying them as a group who has no firm connection with reality, content to exist in a hedonistic lifestyle in which all of their needs are met without taking any responsibility for any of the fallout that may result. Brutal, cold and unsparing, the movie succeeds handsomely in taking on the cultural mindset of our young and exposing it for the dangerous and ultimately nihilistic existence that it is.

Trapped at an anonymous college that Korine presents as more of a prison than an institution of higher learner, Candy, Britt and Cotty (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine, respectively) are anxious to bust out and head to Florida for spring break. Problem is, they have no cash, a small bump in the road that they solve by robbing a local restaurant, wielding a squirt gun, hammer and loads of chutzpah. They set off for more pleasant climes with their goody-two-shoes friend Faith (Selena Gomez) in tow, intent on living it up and leaving their baseless ennui behind. They succeed handsomely until an untimely bust at an out-of-control party lands them in jail. However, they have an dark angel ready to lend a helping hand in the form of Alien (James Franco), a low-level pusher who bails them out, insisting that he’ll just be their chauffer about town.

Obviously, the girls are in over their heads and while one of them has the sense to leave before things spin out of control, the other three embrace Alien’s lifestyle in which they do want they want, when they want, and how they want without any concern for the consequences. The disconnect between reality and the media-fueled-fantasy world the trio live in is evident from the beginning and ultimately taken to tragic extremes. Britt tells her friends before their first robbery to “just pretend you’re in a video game,” in order to motivate them. However, these three don’t really need to pretend. Their lives have been so saturated by violence in games and film, as well as a lack of true personal connection because of social media, that toting guns and treating others as targets in a game has become their reality. None of them possess anything resembling a conscious. Theirs have not been nurtured or allowed to grow, never having been exposed to any positive examples in their privileged, stifling existence.

What’s interesting about the film is that while it’s obvious that there are no boundaries where sex is concerned and that the girls are experienced, this is not the focus of the movie or the characters. Once they enter upon their life of crime with Alien as their mentor, it’s as if they’ve become characters in their personal version of “Grand Theft Auto” assuming the first-person shooter role like a duck to water. Power is what they’re after, whether it be monetary or in the form of superior artillery, both of which they acquire with a sense of invulnerability as they live to fight another day, or is it live to advance to another level? They have little interest in sex as they run the risk of making an emotional connection with someone else as a result, something they simply wouldn’t know how to handle or perhaps even recognize.

All four of the young actresses embrace their roles and run with them and it’s obvious that Gomez and Hudgens relish the opportunity to sully their good girl reputations. Each proves to be a performer worth watching as they fully invest their parts with an abandon that’s invigorating to watch. Equally engaging is Franco who continues to challenge himself and succeeds in generating a bit of sympathy for the trailer park Scarface he brings to life. The performances from these five are not exploitive in any way and neither is the film as Spring Breakers proves to be a revealing and chilling look at the way modern communications, which was touted as a way of bringing us closer, has actually isolated us from each other and reality to potentially tragic results.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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