“I will drink Life to the lees” said the protagonist, the Ithacan king and the Greek hero, in the poem titled with his own name, Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. That suspected hedonism in the face of our inescapable mortality found in The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the Edward FitzGerald translation, going back to the eleventh and the twelfth centuries has found ever increasing rhythm in this generation, but without the octopus hand of death and the ultimate end. “Carpe diem” as they can still say, from our own most mentioned ancient poet, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, known to most of us as Horace – “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the next day”, an idea which has developed into a lifestyle with loose morals leading to a life of unimaginable pleasure among the new generation. Epicureanism has made a more powerful entry to the new world, and as a kind of hedonism finding pleasure as the only intrinsic good, there is a new environment which is powerful and fast spreading. In an attempt to maximize pleasure, and keeping the pain and worries away, there is this chaos which is the side-effect of this pleasure-seeking, and Spring Breakers deals with such an effect. The loss of values, traditions and religion in the contemporary world is given a shocking reflection. It is also a satire on all those “finding ourselves” nonsense which has been thrown on us. The modern life might be empty enough without these, but are these not another group of visages of vanity?
The movie begins with a spring break beach party and goes back college attended by four friends, Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brittany (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine). Candy, Brittany and Cotty despises their normal life at the college and spend their spare time smoking, drinking and partying, while Faith is part of a religious group for the youth in which she seems to be a reluctant participant and finds her world horribly monotonous. When the spring break arrives, the four friends decide to go on their best ever, and enjoy it like never before, but they find themselves terribly short of money. Candy, Brittany and Cotty commit armed robbery at a restaurant and finds enough money to make the trip. Despite of her religious friends warning her about the three friends, Faith decides to accompany the trio in the trip. After reaching Florida, the girls attend wild beach parties and indulge in various unruly activities, and the scene skips to the present when the situation goes and reaches a girls gone wild environment. So much for the shocking mirror of the so called modernity, which is a disturbing world captured in slow-motion.
But after spending a lot of their time in cocaine and alcohol, they are arrested, and taken to the cell and spends two nights in jail, and when all hopes are lost, they are unexpectedly bailed out by Alien (James Franco), a local rapper, a Brittany Spears fan and a gangster who had become very interested in the girls, and calls them “different from the rest”. But as he takes them to one of his usual hangout places, and Faith becomes more and more uncomfortable with his attitude, lifestyle and his friends. Despite his attempts to convince her to stay telling her that he likes her a lot and they would have fun, she decides to leave. But her friends decide to stay despite her begging them to accompany her. They are introduced into Alien’s criminal world full of glamour and money, as they become his partners in crime or soulmates as he would call them, dressed and maked in pink and armed with guns, performing more and more armed robberies not just for the monet, but also for the fun of inflicting the pain and the thrills and advanture associated with it. All these finally leads to Cotty being shot on the arm by a rival gang and returning home as a result of the trauma. But the two girls and Alien decides to stay, continue what they started and seek revenge even as everyone is going back to school, along with taking their relationship to a new level – so the spring break continues.
So, that is how it goes, depicting spring break as an escape from reality, into another world, and two of the girls decides to continue in it, with one leaving when she realizes what is going to happen and the other when she comes to her senses about what is really happening. Then the question would be about reality, and where would one need to escape into. They girls chose the world of drugs, alcohol, sex and violence, rather than something which could have revived them spiritually. From the words of Faith: “It was really great. I think we found ourselves here. We finally got to see some other parts of the world. We saw some beautiful things here. Things we’ll never forget. We got to let loose. God, I can’t believe how many new friends we made. Friends from all over the place. I mean everyone was so sweet here. So warm and friendly. I know we made friends that will last us a lifetime. We met people who are just like us. People the same as us. Everyone was just trying to find themselves. It was way more than just having a good time. We see things different now. More colors, more love, more understanding. God, it’s so nice to get a break from my uni for a little while. I know we have to go back to school, but we’ll always remember this trip. Something so amazing, magical. Something so beautiful. Feels as if the world is perfect. Like it’s never gonna end.”
Consider this and think about the fact that Selena Gomez’ Faith is the only girl out there with some sense left in her. Even she considers that world as “warm and friendly”, the things there as “amazing, magical and beautiful” and people there as “just like us”. Her concept of “colour, love and understanding” were entirely disturbing for someone with a strong religious background. Her desire was change and escape from the monotonous world, and she needed to be awakened. She herself says “I’m starting to think this is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been”; and what she needed was a spiritual awakening, not a physical one. Despite of knowing that the three girls stole the money for the vacation, she still decides to stay, and needed a bigger jolt of being arrested and taken to the gangster world so as to come to know that she was wrong all the time, and it was not the world which she wished for. Selena’s portrayal of the comparatively good girl has been a sweet one. Right from the beginning, when she gets into the bikini with her friends, it seems clear that she is the misfit with her body as well as the expressions, but her role is that of substance, and her character does something other than being crazy and wild, which is to think. But the question would remain if she needed this much of a backlash to get away from her so called friends?
Cotty (Rachel Korine) is the next person to come into her senses and she required to be shot on the arm for the same. She would seem like the sexually charged person of the gang, as the sole female wet, wearing nothing but her panty and surrounded by males in a room throughout the spring break, while her friends spend their time together. But after getting shot, she shows that everything was just a mask of being the strong, smart and sexy lady to be part of the gang. But Brittany (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) takes the same to the next level, beginning a sexual relationship with Alien (James Franco) as well as taking the violence to another stage. Vanessa Hudgens seems to have shed her cute Disney image completely with this one, and Ashley Benson seems to rule the movie as the most gorgeous of the gang as well as the most beautiful. The final two form the best of the bad girls, with no remorse about anything they have done, and still hanging onto their idea, of pretending that it is a video game or a movie. James Franco is big revolution, and as the rapping hunk who takes the girls under his wing, he looks so different in his looks, his way of talking and his style that nobody might recognize him if not told. He is the Mephistopheles of this morality tale, and even as Faith lives upto her name and suvives the temptation, and Cotty repents as he realizes the horror, the two remaining ones – the “soulmates” are damned with their soul. In this age when tradition has disappeared, and religion takes the exit, such things tend to be stronger than ever.
Well, this movie might look like just a random party show, but what does this tale come up with? It is a morality tale covered in bikinis, as it gives us a horrifying look into the present day culture which has gone to that path which is nothing less than the worst of all hedonism. It is a twisted allegory towards contemporary culture. It is a take on the contemporary world of loose morals and the absence of faith which they lost with the return of Faith, and remorse which they lose with the return of Cotty. There is a Don Juan and there is a Doctor Faustus in all humans beyond the ability for denial, but there is a limit to how far that takes one, and as long as Spring Breakers are concerned, they have taken it to the limits, from the monotonous life to seeking change, they have taken the forbidden path, but still, they are not judged. The new generation has been lost, as it would say, or the most of it. The inherent evil in man has taken control more powerfully. This one can’t work as a morality tale though, as there is a lot of strong outer covering. But what it can do is that it can shock the audience into taking a look into the contemporary world of late night parties, drugs and booze which has taken over the teenage girls, and its raw reflection is Spring Breakers. This shock has been used in a simple manner in Papilio Buddha, the Malayalam movie, but in Spring Breakers, they use it in an exaggerated, twisted manner, but the result is that they surely shock the audience into understanding the terror that is modern culture, with sadness and depression. They could have done without the repeated uncomfortable images, but this is still a different movie using a different style.
Release date: 22nd March 2013
Running time: 93 minutes
Directed by: Harmony Korine
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco, Gucci Mane
@ Cemetery Watch
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