Film Shots: Warm Bodies and Spring Breakers

Warm Bodies (3.25/5):

It’s been nearly two months since I saw Warm Bodies. My delayed review for the film clearly demonstrates my ambivalence for the film. Yet, the mere fact I’m doing a review for it suggests I at least found something interesting about a tale revolving around a disenchanted zombie falling in love with one of his potential food sources. Written and directed by Jonathan Levine, Warm Bodies is a riff on Twilight’s insufferable plotting. Undead boy meets a very human girl. The disparate beings get past their awkward differences and fall in love.  The undead, a zombie that’s keenly self-aware, and is simply named R (Nicholas Hoult), finds himself drawn to the girlfriend of a man he has just eaten.  R’s eventual companion is Julie (Teresa Palmer), a member of the flesh brigade that hunts down zombies like R. Essentially, Warm Bodies refashions Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” into a post-apocalyptic love story with shades of the horror genre. Considering the film’s premise and zombie setup, Warm Bodies is a bland directorial effort from Levine. The world itself isn’t discernible from any other apocalyptic film, nor does it feature beguiling style.

Rather, its feels rudimentary, if not boring. Regardless of Levine failing to provide the film with a trademark moment, Warm Bodies admirably entertains because its two leads are so damn charming. Nicholas Hoult gives a surprisingly funny and inviting performance as the reflective R. Being that his character is a zombie, thus devoid of any emotion, Hoult’s performance is deeply invested in small physical cues more than grand expressions. Through small grunts and awkward body positioning, plus a wickedly dry narration, Hoult’s physical performance delivers a handful of laughs while perfectly encapsulating the distance between the dead and living. Helping Hoult bring a charge to the film’s proceedings is the effervescent Palmer, whose genuine presence makes us believe in the developing farfetched romance.  If there was ever a moment where Levine shines behind the camera, it’s when he allows his leads to embrace the film’s silly premise and maximizes the film’s potency through comedy.  Unfortunately, despite a mostly endearing tale, and two very enjoyable lead performances, Warm Bodies doesn’t offend nor excite the viewer. In many ways, instead of tearing our flesh off, it nibbles softly on our skin, leaving the smallest of impressions.

Spring Breakers (4/5):

Harmony Korine’s film about an annual rite of passage going astray opens up on a string of shots showing college kids indulging in dancing, alcohol, and an immense amount of bare breasts. This is the dream for many college kids, who seek a week of freedom and debauchery during their spring semester. Spring break is almost a mystical creature, a rare time where people eradicate responsibility and inhibition. It’s initially an unreachable fever dream for the four girls we follow in Korine’s bizarrely absorbing film. The girls, who are Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine), feel lost in their college dorms, almost sickened by their university’s stagnant atmosphere. They fully intend to remedy their restlessness by going to Florida for break, but there’s only one problem: they don’t have enough money. A suffocating desperation leads Candy, Brit and Cotty into the criminal realm as they knockoff a chicken restaurant so they can make their sun baked dreams a reality. In this particular scene, which is both visually striking and frightening, the girls expose a darker side to their being, one that seemingly originated from pop culture at large. Nonetheless, they have the money they so desired, and bus their way down to paradise.

Eventually, paradise turns into a nightmare when the girls get arrested, with no money to post bail. Enter in Alien (James Franco), a southern bred rapper and drug dealer that bails the girls out for his own amusement. And that’s when things truly warp for the worse, transforming the girl’s simple spring break into a surreal, horrific experience. Based on the narrative spiraling out of control, there are a handful of themes and weighty ideas one can deduce Korine is shooting for. Thoughts of superficiality and pop exploitation come to mind, as the four girls’ unhinged behavior suggests pop culture disillusionment. Namely, every action has no reaction. For whatever angle Korine is going for, his film ultimately succeeds because it unapologetically captures an intoxicating moment.  From a pulsating score from Cliff Martinez to neon treads to delirious voice overs, we invariably feel the distorted buzz the four girls have rattling around in their brain. Helping Korine disorient us is a fantastically bizarre performance from James Franco, who has the charm of Gene Kelly mixed in with the devious nature of Robert Mitchum from Night of the Hunter. I’m sure  Spring Breakers’ brazen existence, as well as its repetitious scenes, will turn off most viewers, but Korine has concocted a seductive and dizzying film that continuously bashes us over the head with empty beer bottles.


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