‘Spring Breakers;’ ‘The Gatekeepers’ — two completely different movies

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

There are two movies opening this weekend, and I don’t want you to get them mixed up.

One is “Spring Breakers.” The other one is “The Gatekeepers.”

“Spring Breakers”

The first one is a “t-and-a” comedy (not necessarily intentional) about four girls in bikinis who get busted and end up working for James Franco.

I know. It also sounds awfully close to “Beach Blanket Butts.” However, the director is Harmony Korine who, if you haven’t already heard of him, specializes in the sort of calculated smut that’s supposed to be a turn-on in a forbidden-fruit sort of way.

Meaning, instead of just any girls frolicking and getting, um, messed with, these are Name Girls behaving like slutty Labrador pups. Names like Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. (Nice throwaway bit: they are arrested and stand before the judge in their bikinis).

Those familiar with Korine’s previous oeuvre — he wrote, but didn’t direct the preening and nasty “Kids” — may understand why the New York Times rated this 100 out of a possible, yes, 100. I’d give it 100 raincoats or whatever it is they wear at home these days watching teasing, who’s-punking-who? Girls-Gone-Mad videos.

Ok, superfluous Times  slap, but I’m not entirely kidding. It does seem the farther away you are from any semblance of Florida at its silliest and most salacious (I’ve clocked a few years on the Redneck Riviera myself), the more your pasty-faced inner-nerd will love this film.

Which, to some minds, is a recommendation. If so, may I suggest “The Real Cancun” which is the same only — in this particular universe — better. My only disappointment? Nobody does something transgressive with a Shetland Pony.

 “The Gatekeepers”

“The Gatekeepers” is another matter altogether and is likely to have audiences come unhinged in an entirely different manner.

The Hot Button topic here isn’t hilariously wiggly hot babes, but a half-dozen former chiefs of Shin Bet, an Israeli counterterrorism agency that’s as secretive about its activities as Coke is about its formula.

Actually, that’s the absolutely wrong joke-y tone to strike. This documentary is somber, reflective, and dead serious about the Middle East, with many of the ruling class (so to speak) in Israel coming under attack in the on-screen interviews. As one of the retired agents says, looking back on his career, “You knock on doors in the middle of the night…these moments end up etched deep inside you. I think, after retiring from this job, you become a leftist.”

I’m guessing “leftists,” so to speak, are the likeliest audience for “The Gatekeepers.”

Essentially, it’s very difficult to watch this film — along with the retired talking heads, there are animated bits and archival footage —  without bringing your own views about the Middle East situation.

Still, this is an important movie and the fact that it’s playing here is a testament to Atlanta audiences; they’ve proved that the city’s movie-lovers are ready to support controversial films.

And “The Gatekeepers” is certainly that.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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