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Worst Thing Ever: ‘Spring Breakers’

Kevin Noonan | Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It’s an age of superlatives. If you’re not the best ever, you’re the worst. If you’re not Daniel Day-Lewis, you’re Nicolas Cage. If you’re not a 4.0 student, you’re a hobo living under a bridge. In the spirit of buying into and expounding upon possible social ills, Scene staffers will highlight the pop culture experience that was, for them, the WORST THING EVER IN EVER. First up, Scene Editor Kevin Noonan.

I’ve encountered many terrible entertainment experiences in my life. Open mic stand up sets. High school black box theater shows with amateur improv at the intermission. Sarah McLachlan’s commercials (career).
But just as there are no rainbows without rain, I never really understood what a truly horrific attempt at “entertainment” meant until I sat through all 93 minutes of the teeth-grinding, terrifying, atrocious “Spring Breakers.”
This isn’t even to say that I went into this movie with high expectations and was crushed by disappointment.
No. Please don’t get that impression.
I could have walked into this movie believing it would be the new undisputed worst movie of all time, in the vein of “The Room.” I still would have walked away wanting to join a monastery on an otherwise uninhabited Pacific island in order to never come in contact with anything even remotely resembling “Spring Breakers.”
Let me give the context.
I thought about seeing this movie in theaters, but didn’t. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to pay for it. I get my ticket reimbursed through The Observer when I review a movie (write for Scene, free movies!).
So I wasn’t worried about the cost of the ticket.
My concern was instead, “Do I really want to waste an hour and a half to two hours of my life to see this movie?”
College girls go on spring break. One of them is innocent, the other ones – maybe not so much. James Franco is a rapper/drug dealer/bad dude with cornrows, a grill (the mouth kind, no word on the cooking kind) and all kinds of guns and clothes and whatnot.
I knew who James Franco was. I even like James Franco mostly, despite his some of his questionable artistic choices. I knew who Selena Gomez was. I was vaguely aware of Vanessa Hudgens from the “High School Musical” movies. The rest of the cast and crew were lost on me for the most part.
I decided that no, I did not want to physically travel somewhere to see this movie, and would wait until it came out on Netflix, On Demand, RedBox or something similar.
All of this is suffice to say, I didn’t expect much from this film.
But, and part of me doesn’t want to beat a dead horse, but the other part feels an obligation to society to make sure I don’t under-stress the point. I got less than I expected.
Here’s the movie. There will be spoilers ahead but if you’re really worried about the plot of this film being ruined for you, just watch it.
There’s four girls. Three of them, played by Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife, mind you) are bad. Gomez is good. We meet her at some kind of Christian church group kind of thing. Her character’s name, by the way, is Faith. They named the religious character “Faith.” Not a joke. Even then, I’m not sure it ranks as one of the top 10 most irritating details of the movie.
But then it turns out Gomez is friends with the other three, and Hudgens and Benson get high on cocaine and rob a local restaurant, driving away in a car that they stole and later burn.
Cut to St. Petersburg, Fla. I don’t know a single person that’s ever gone to St. Petersburg for spring break unless they were going to visit their grandparents, and they probably weren’t particularly pumped about it.
But whatever, they’re in St. Petersburg. And oh man, so many parties. They’re drinking alcohol dressed in bikinis and people are doing drugs. Oh my.
But the social commentary doesn’t stop there. Gomez calls her grandmother and tells her how spiritual her experience has been (she’s lied to her family about what she’s doing for spring break, obviously, because they’re religious and they JUST WOULDN’T HAVE UNDERSTOOD), and the phone call is played over a montage of parties and drugs and people peeing on the sidewalk.
It’s all very artistic.
I know I’ve spent a lot of words getting this far, but I just want you to know that at this point we’re 20 or 30 minutes into the movie. Also keep in mind that by the time this movie came out, Selena Gomez’s music was taking off, so a lot of the film’s marketing focused on her role. That’s heavy-handed foreshadowing for her leaving this movie really, really early on, but it’s still subtler than anything in “Spring Breakers.”
Anyways, they get arrested, but James Franco bails them out. I don’t have the strength of will to describe his appearance; google it. Needless to say, he’s not a great guy. Selena Gomez isn’t cool with it; she leaves. That means that 40 minutes into the movie, one of the only two people I recognize by face walks out of the movie and doesn’t come back.
Shortly thereafter, Korine leaves. I honestly can’t remember a single thing she says or does in this movie and had to look up the cast on IMDb to remember her character.
I’ll be honest, there’s like 30 to 40 minutes left in this movie still I’m pretty sure, but I’m done with it. I can go no further. It only gets worse from here.
This movie has been praised by some for its exploration of hedonism, biting commentary on society and as a generally entertaining, satisfying film.
It is none of those things.
It is, quite plain and simply, the worst thing ever.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.