Two Views of Teen Girls

The "Spring Breakers" gang

The “Spring Breakers” gang

There are two movies currently in release that deal with the experiences of teenaged girls.  The two films are “Ginger and Rosa” and “Spring Breakers.”  These films could not be more diametrically opposed.  One is about a teenager’s concern for humanity. The other concerns a group of cute, bubble headed bikini clad blonds who resort to violent crime in order to have enough money to travel down to Florida for Spring Break.  Once there they engage in even more crime.  The first is “Ginger and Rosa,” the second is “Spring Breakers.”

Elle Fanning and Alice Englert in "Ginger and Rosa"

Alice Englert and Elle Fanning in “Ginger and Rosa”

Prior to the screening of “Spring Breakers” that I attended, at AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street, two girls in the row behind me talked all the way through the coming attractions.  It drives me crazy when people talk at movies, but I make allowances during the trailers.  When “Spring Breakers” finally began, some 20 minutes passed its scheduled start time (business as usual in the multiplex world), the girls  continued their chattering, expressing shock and surprise at the depictions of topless spring break college girls running amock in Florida during the film’s opening sequence.  I stood up, leaned over the seats and asked the girls to stop talking.  They shut up immediatley, but in those brief few seconds it was obvious to me that these girls were way too young to be seeing “Spring Breakers.”  I could not help think how much more they would have gotten out of seeing a movie like “Ginger and Rosa.”

“Ginger and Rosa” is director Sally Potter’s (“Orlando” 1992, “The Tango Lesson” 1997) insightful, intimate and very effective coming of age story.  The film stars Elle Fanning, and newcomer Alice Englert, as two teenaged girls growing up in England in 1962.  The title characters are close friends, who, for the most part, do what many teenage girls do.  They hang out, stay out late, smoke and make out with boys.  Their friendship and teenage idealism is contrasted to the harsh realities of life as Ginger’s concern over nuclear bombs, the Cuban Missile Crisis in particular, become a greater and greater personal issue for her.  Eventually the two girls must deal with a crisis much closer to home.  As the leads carrying the film, Fanning and Englert are authentic and natural.

“Spring Breakers,” on the other hand, features characters who are narcissistic, selfish, vacuous and who do not care who they hurt in their pursuit of self-serving goals.  It’s bikini babes with machine guns.  The film stars James Franco, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine (wife of the film’s director Harmony Korine).  Aside from Gomez and Franco the cast was interchangeable.  Gomez plays Faith, the only non-blond among the four friends, and hence the good girl of the group.  Franco plays an out of control rapper/gangster named Alien (give me a break) with whom the girls find a kindred soul who is just as vacuous and shallow as they. Franco’s performance though is so good that I could not believe that this was the same man who embarrassed himself co-hosting the Oscars, two ceremonies ago.

The “Spring Breakers” story has been recycled from “youth on the run committing violent crimes” movies like “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) and Gun Crazy” (1950).  The difference is that, in this case, I found little sympathy for the main characters.   The story has a subplot concerning a rivalry between Franco’s character and another gangster that is uninspired and obvious.

“Ginger and Rosa” is playing locally at Angelika Film center, 18 west Houston Street.  “Spring Breakers” is playing locally at Regal Union Square Stadium 14.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on March 22, 2013, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Seth, the amazing coincidence is that, even as I write this, “Gun Crazy” is on TCM. I’m not sure that I like it any more than you liked “Spring Breakers.” The idea of films about nihilistic youth has been done to death — no pun intended — don’tcha think? Why would I spend money to see another one, especially one that’s not particularly well executed?… pun intended, this time. Your review, then, serves a public service announcement. Thanks for the warning about one, and the recommendation of the other.

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