Saturday, March 23, 2013

WHEN GOOD GIRLS GO 'GANGSTA'


There’s a terrifying moment in the new movie SPRING BREAKERS, where two of the girls who’ve already shown a predilection for bad judgment go further in their antisocial behavior, and you realize they’ve passed the point of no return. Throughout the movie, we’ve seen Candy and Brit (Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson) act like dangerous, out-of-control brats. They pay for their spring fling by robbing a restaurant. And once in St. Pete, they embrace all the drugs, sex and debauchery oozing around them. But when they cozy up to gangster Alien (James Franco) and flirt by threatening to blow his head off with the revolvers they’re sticking in his mouth, you realize they’re the ice-cold gangsta’s, not him. And that moment is as terrifying as any monster movie like JAWS or Freddy Kruger.
Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson in SPRING BREAKERS.


Granted, this isn’t a horror movie, but it some ways it plays exactly like one. There are monsters on the loose and they wreak all kinds of havoc. And they bring with them a constant threat of danger and death. Move over zombies and vampires, Candy and Brit are on the loose! (And the fact that Hudgens is a former Disney star makes it all a bit more frightening.)

I’ve always believed that the scariest monsters are those of the more human kind (http://bit.ly/10yB3fy). And that’s certainly true here. These monsters are human, and even more deceiving because they come dressed in little more than tanning oil and flip-flops. Watching their amoral antics throughout this film made me realize just how far the female villain in pop culture has come these days. And the motives of these new two villains are truly terrifying.
James Franco in SPRING BREAKERS.

Even going back through the last few years, it was easy to recognize the motives behind other evil female villain characters on screen. Charlize Theron’s wicked queen in SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN (2012) was driven by her political desire to remain in power. (My take on her here: http://exm.nr/MbjhaX). In HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011), Jennifer Aniston’s oversexed dentist liked blurring the line between employee and plaything. Even Norma Bates on TV’s current BATES MOTEL (Vera Farmiga) is driven by the desire to make a better go of it for her and son Norman (http://exm.nr/ZKbWoT). But what drives Candy and Brit in SPRING BREAKERS? Little more than a need to be thrilled, to feel something in a world that now bores them.
Charlize Theron in SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN

It’s the entitlement generation we now live in, isn’t it? When kids grow up having their own DVR, car and credit car supplied to them, not by hard work but by absentee and enabling parents, those like Candy and Brit are created. When a nation puts wars, tax cuts, and entitlements on the company credit card for the better part of the last 60 years, is it any wonder we have an electorate that wants their country back without any true sacrifice like new taxes or cuts in government spending? Candy and Brit are poster children for a country that has Attention Deficit Disorder, and can’t concentrate on anything in a "play now/pay later" society.

These bored girls float through the whole movie with smug, blasé faces. It’s like they’re in a disaffected haze, trying to embrace the Spring Break chicanery but remaining a bit outside of it at all times. Writer/director Harmony Korine does a magnificent job of informing the tone of his movie by that attitude. Everything is a little dreamy, a little vague, a little removed. The film lives in slow motion, echoing the laissez-faire attitude of these two girls driving the plot.

And drive it they do, cajoling cohorts Faith and Cotty (Selena Gomez and Rachel Korine) to participate in their shenanigans. They’re game all right, a little bored themselves, but they have some conscience unlike their ringleaders. At her core, Faith is trying to live up to her name, and walk the straight path. She turns her back on her religion temporarily to dig into the sins of St. Pete, but when they get arrested for underage drug use, it sobers her up pretty quick. Then, after Alien bails them out of jail, she seizes the opportunity to put it all behind her and hightails it back to college on the next bus.

A day or so later, Cotty comes to the same conclusion after taking a drug dealer’s bullet meant for Alien. The slug is removed from her aching arm, but the wound to her sense of self stings a lot more. She too boards the bus, realizing that college may be a bitch but it beats being one of Alien’s bitches. The other two girls remain, showing no such judgment. They burrow deeper into the lifestyle of no rules, no college classes, no parents, and no norms. Their great motive is to beat the boredom of their everyday existences. And give the finger to their family, society and any semblance of order.
Manson family members Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten on trial in 1970.

Vincent Bugliosi, the DA who prosecuted Charles Manson and his followers recognized that there was something inherently evil in the three young women that the cult leader chose to kill for him. Manson knew that Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten had the homicidal predilection already in them. It just needed to be tapped. Candy and Brit are the same. Alien opened the door, but the monster was already inside, itching to be released.
Jodi Arias, currently on trial for murder one in Arizona.


It’s the same thing that Arizona prosecutor Jose Martinez is arguing about in the Jodi Arias trial. Her killing of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander may have been triggered by her jealousy, but the evil has been inside her forever. Her selfishness and narcissism have driven her all her life. And if her trial has proven anything, it’s that she lost any sense of truth, decency or empathy a long time ago. (http://bit.ly/10yGPxG)
Benson, Franco and Hudgens in character.
The characters of Candy and Brit in SPRING BREAKERS are cut from the same cloth as Arias and those Manson girls. The evil is in them, just waiting to be coaxed out. Alien talks a big game, but at the end when they’re about to pull off a dangerous vendetta against a fellow gangster, he’s worried. They aren’t. And that’s because he’s not as evil as he appears to be. Candy and Brit are the true wolves, albeit dressed in sheep’s clothing. Or in this case, teeny-weeny bikinis. 

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