** A couple weeks ago, I had to write a sample on some recent pop culture news for a thing I was applying for. This roundup is what came out–basically a review of everything but the movie itself. **
According to Spring Breakers‘ divisive Rotten Tomatoes page, the movie is either a nasty, garish, incredibly boring, unintentionally laughable, irredeemably toxic mess, or it is “the most unforgettable movie of the year so far,” “an authentically cracked expression of the crazy, conflicting signals bombarding today’s teenagers” that is “loaded with sharp, telling dialogue,” featuring a James Franco performance that is “nothing short of great.”
But every now and then, the trivia around a movie is so interesting that even the movie’s haters have to admit that they’re sorta glad the movie exists.
We now know that Gucci Mane appears in the film because Harmony Korine called him in prison and said, “I have a part for you. As soon as you get out of jail, I’ll be waiting, just make sure you don’t reoffend,” that for Gucci’s sex scenes, Korine knew Gucci liked thick girls and found some at “crazy black strip clubs” on the outskirts of Tampa, and that Gucci fell asleep while filming a scene in which one of those strippers fucks him.
We know Korine wrote a draft of Spring Breakers during spring break in Panama City in a hotel filled with dwarves, and that when Korine asked the receptionist why all the dwarves, she told him it was because Hulk Hogan was filming a reality show.
We know that Korine’s favorite metaphors for the experience of watching Spring Breakers are: chemical reaction, video game, stew, liquid narrative, pop poem, and beach noir.
We know Korine sees Britney Spears as “more than a person– she’s like an energy.”
We know Korine was banned from promoting the movie on Letterman because David Letterman once caught Korine going through Meryl Streep’s purse.
We know that during filming, real spring breakers showed up everywhere (“Some gnarly jocks were trying to hump up on the girls,” Korine said), which created a clusterfuck Korine alternately tolerated and encouraged.
We know the hotel scenes were filmed at an abandoned hotel that was going to be torn down anyway, and that after the shoot was done the hotel “looked like Berlin after the war.”
We know the robbery reenactment scene was thought up by Korine on the spot and largely improvised by the girls.
We know James Franco stayed in character on set, that Selena Gomez did not feel as if she’d really met James Franco until they started promoting the film, and that to prepare Franco for the role of Alien, Korine would “show Franco a videotape of girls in a gas-station parking lot getting in a fight at 3 a.m. on the side of the road, and say, ‘That’s the way I want this scene to feel.'”
We know Franco’s performance was inspired by Dangerruss, Max Cady in Cape Fear, and RiFF RAFF, and that when RiFF RAFF saw the movie, his primary criticisms were (1) Franco stole some of his quotes (but they were old quotes so Franco could have them) and (2) “It needs more Spring Breakers 2.” That’s right: When you’re RiFF RAFF, you get to compare a movie to its nonexistent sequel.
Meanwhile, critics have begun to indulge in interpretations that will hopefully spin further out over the decades until Spring Breakers is ready for the Room 237 treatment.
Anisse Gross of the Rumpus calls the ending “an obvious metaphor for white suburban consumption of hip hop culture,” and in the damning article “Why Spring Breakers is the only American movie that matters right now” (sorry G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Sarah Nicole Prickett writes that Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens fall for Alien, they “do not fall in love with Alien, or with Alien’s money, but with the realization that they are money.”
This is a great start, but let’s hope the critical conversation gets hijacked by the sort of obsessives who’ll watch the movie on repeat until they begin to involuntarily whisper “spring break forever” in their sleep. We already know Korine’s good with it. “There can be all those types of interpretations, it’s all part of it,” he told the A.V. Club’s Sam Adams. “I enjoy it.”
Here are a few questions to get the weirdos going: Why the civil rights lecture at the beginning? What does the phrase “I want penis” really mean? Is the whole second half of the movie a dream Selena Gomez has on the bus home? What does Alien’s illegal (and nontaxable) line of work say about immigration? How come Skrillex and Harmony Korine are never in the room at the same time? And: Is that a fucking wedding they’re robbing?
Let this be a lesson to psychologists everywhere: If you’re bored with the answers patients offer when you give them a Rorschach test, make sure your ink blots resemble bikini-clad Disney starlets.