I am probably just as surprised as you are: Spring Breakers is actually a really good movie.

It follows a deceptively simple plot, of a Good Girl and her longtime friends, three Bad Girls, who are bored in their university setting and are desperate for any kind of change. Their solution is to go to Florida for a wild and unforgettable Spring Break. Even after saving money for months, they are unable to afford this excursion, prompting the Bad Girls to rob a local eatery.

The bad behavior continues at the Spring Break resort town, eventually landing them in a local jail and involved in a greater crime ring. One of the drug lords is played to over-the-top perfection by James Franco, who delivers a chilling yet comical portrayal.

The story is told with an engaging intensity unique to films of this genre; we’ve seen plenty of movies like this before, of young girls gone wild, so the direction doesn’t waste time on the narrative. What’s interesting is how the story is told, through lucid montages flashing around through time and space, often with disembodied voice-overs describing the sequence we are viewing, as told by characters before or after the incident actually takes place.

Take one scene, for instance: We know the girls are going to get into trouble. We knew that from the movie poster. So for the scene in which they get arrested, we get flashes of the different girls in police cars with red and blue lights shining on their faces; then we return back to the incident in which they get arrested. This constant back-and-forth makes this movie, whose narrative is otherwise simple, consistently compelling.

But it’s not just the storytelling that makes Spring Breakers a fascinating work, but the story and theme itself. This is a twisted representation of the American dream, almost a contemporary remake of Where the Boys Are, of young women rejecting mainstream society and opt to make a life for themselves in any way they can. The plays of power move so instantaneously and so driven by individual initiative, that one can’t watch without the unsettling feeling that power, and perceptions of it, are so fluid.

On its surface, Spring Breakers is a sticky, neon trip of house music and marijuana smoke but at its heart (or lack of one), it is a disturbing and revealing look at what we value in our American life, and how far we will go to achieve it.