The Secret Genius of 'Spring Breakers' Is...

The Secret Genius of 'Spring Breakers' Is...

Mar 13, 2013

Spring Breakers is the first (smart) film built on a foundation of memes. That's not a complaint, either. It's actually the genius of Harmony Korine's latest. The James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens-led film about college kids gone wild is a scathing commentary about current youth culture, their reckless abandon, their predator nature, and the want to have everything without working for it.

Every generation has movies that showcase the idiocy of youth, though. What Korine's film makes a haunting case for, among several other things, is that the current generation has absolutely nothing to say themselves.

There's a brilliant component of Spring Breakers that is built on repetition. Characters say and do the same thing over and over, whether it's shot after shot of naked girls having beer poured on their face or James Franco's ridiculous Alien character's impossible-to-forget, Southern-drawl catchphrases like "Sprinnngggg breaaakkk...sprinnnggg brreaaaakkk..." and "Look at all my sh*t!" And the reason Korine repeats these moments so often isn't because he has a lack of plot and it's not just because they're funny, it's because he's showing that today's teenagers (at least ones with similar aspirations to those in the movie) have nothing to say. They have absolutely no original thoughts. And so they just say the same thing over and over and over, and the more intoxicated they get, the more they just enter this blissed-out state of regurgitation.

Warning: clip is NSFW for language

It's a bold piece of criticism, especially given the cast and their Disney-fueled, pop-culture princess status, but it's also devilishly inspired, because the very repetition of it all means that these moments in the movie are destined for Internet meme-dom. People are going to stick quotes from this movie on images that spread like wildfire across Twitter and Reddit. It's going to spawn animated gifs that tear across the Net like some kind of Tumblr STD. Guys and gals alike are going to dress like these characters for Halloween and pose like them in countless Facebook pictures. And the very people who are going to keep it viral all are the people Korine thinks don't have an original thought in their head, and they're going to spread it around without ever realizing what it's truly saying about them. Further adding to the cleverness, though, is even if you're not some dumb sorority girl or a booze-chugging frat boy, the sheer repetition of it in the movie will burrow its way into your brain. You and your friends will be saying "sprinnnnggggg brrreaaaaakkk... spppprrrinnnngggg brrreaaakkk" whenever the movie is talked about.

Spring Breakers certainly isn't the first time a movie is going to be embraced by a population that doesn't realize that it's actually mocking them, but it's the first one I've seen that so deftly understands its audience, their perception of the film, the way they watch films, the way they talk about films, and the way they talk to each other. Harmony Korine and his stars are about to embed a secret code into the vernacular of an entire generation, and everyone infected will be none the wiser. Love or hate the film, that's genius.

Follow along on Twitter: @PeterSHall and @Moviesdotcom.

Categories: Features, Indie, Film Festivals
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