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Critics weigh in on 'Spring Breakers'

A24 Pictures

This is an abridged version of a review published March 18 in the Times. Read the complete review at


Times Movie Critic

Spring Breakers is aggressively artful and unfocused, which would be a problem except it's also luridly fascinating throughout.

Would it be so if writer-director-provocateur Harmony Korine filmed this Day-Glo depravity anywhere other than our own suntropolis? Perhaps not.

Tampa Bay wears fringe nihilism well, including wet-fever dreams of trigger-happy angels floating on cannabis clouds and dusted with cocaine like beignets waiting to be licked clean. Or drug gangstas sporting cornrows and gold-grill teeth, living large and thinking three-ways. Film as a fetish tool, that's what Spring Breakers is all about, y'all.

There's enough beer-bonging, crotch-grabbing, lewd, lascivious and loving it action to fill a T-shirt shop with slogans.

The promise of such carefree carnality is what leads Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine, the director's wife) to finance a Florida trip by robbing a restaurant with squirt guns and a sledgehammer. The girls entice good-girl Faith (Selena Gomez) to join them on the trip, but she won't hang around long.

The girls are bailed out of jail by the movie's wildest card, a blinged-out rapper/drug dealer named Alien (James Franco), who's a Halloween costume waiting to happen. "Truth be told, I ain't from this planet, y'all," says this foul-mouthed trailer trash satyr made good by breaking bad. Franco makes a repellent character engaging, instantly quotable and generally unprintable.

The end won't come too soon for some people, the ones preferring our community image in movies to be where the codgers and dolphin play. Nothing about Spring Breakers reflects badly on where we live because, like Alien, Korine's movie ain't from this planet, y'all. It's just another close encounter with a Hollywood seldom allowing truth to get in the way of a good story. B+

A 'kinky, trippy' eyeful

Before the rest of us have a chance to weigh in, here's what film critics have to say about the movie shot in St. Petersburg last spring with real spring breakers as extras. — Sharon Kennedy Wynne

"A sun-soaked postcard from Caligula's Rome. ... Spring Breakers seems to be holding a funhouse mirror up to the face of youth-driven pop culture, leaving us uncertain whether to laugh, recoil in horror, or marvel at its strange beauty. All I knew is I couldn't wait to see it a second time."

Scott Foundas, Village Voice

"I think the movie is swill — but I wouldn't be shocked if a whole crop of cinema studies papers affirms the case for its genius."

David Edelstein, New York magazine

Director Harmony Korine "bores into a contested, deeply American topic — the pursuit of happiness taken to nihilistic extremes — but turns his exploration into such a gonzo, outrageously funny party that it takes a while to appreciate that this is more of a horror film than a comedy."

Manohla Dargis, New York Times

"The actors can't compete with the kinky, trippy visuals — except Franco, who surfs Korine's wavelength and doesn't wipe out."

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Critics weigh in on 'Spring Breakers' 03/20/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 5:19pm]
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