Directed by: Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Amber Benson, Rachel Korine
I never went anywhere crazy on Spring Break. I wouldn’t step foot in Florida if I played for the Marlins and the idea to go down to a resort community to drink all day in the sun, do coke, and watch sloppy naked chicks make out always sounded like a lot of effort to me. Sleeping until noon at my parent’s house watching television in my boxers until dinner always seemed much more interesting. It wouldn’t make an interesting movie, though, and I think I would qualify Spring Breakers as such. I think.
Imagine if Terence Malick directed MTV’s The Grind circa 1993; that’s what Spring Breakers plays like. With its day-glo bikinis, half-naked beautiful people, and just off-the-wall introspection paired with shallow displays of excess, Harmony Korine’s film is an oddly brilliant film while, at the same time, piling on the trashiness.
Spring Breakers follows the exploits of a group of rowdy girls that steal their way (literally) down to Ft. Lauderdale for some drunken fun in the sun. For the most part, these girls are nameless and probably could just be identified by the color of their bikini, Reservoir Dogs-style. When the partying gets out of hand, the girls wind up in jail, only to be bailed out by local rap artist/gang member/special ed student Alien, played by a performance by James Franco that is so out there, it’s hard to remember that he “bonked” Kirsten Dunst in the head in Spider-man 3.
Franco completely is immersed as this white trash gang member; he’s a specimen that could only be pulled from the Everglades. There’s an entire scene where he brings Vanessa Hudgens and Amber Benson into his bedroom to show off the shit that are basically the spoils of his lifestyle: nunchucks, shorts of “every fuckin’ color”, and blue Kool-Aid, among many other things. It’s a surreal scene where you scratch your head thinking “Are you serious?” while you can’t help but feel like it all just makes perfect sense. Alien is a goddamn clown but his charisma, as well as Franco’s, just makes it all work.
The film could basically be broken down into two parts – pre-Alien and post-Alien – as the tone of the film takes a dramatic shift: the partying stops, making way for some serious gangsta shit when the girls start hanging around Alien and his crew. Things escalate and the girls tap out one-by-one as the beach parties are forgotten in favor of drivebys and automatic weapons. This is also the point where Selena Gomez’s character Faith, the character keeping the lone foot in the realm of reality, departs the film. From there, things spiral out of control for both the girls and the scumbag Scarecrow that has brought them down the Yellow Brick Road of this fucked-up version of Oz.
Korine may be a genius, but it’s even more possible that he’s bat-shit crazy. The film has some scenes that are beautiful while at the same time, profoundly brutal. The initial heist scene is directed wonderfully as the camera spends the whole time in the getaway car as it circles the restaurant, the whole scene unfolding from glimpses caught through the windows. By contrast, the film had some moments of just odd brilliance. Case in point: Alien sitting behind a piano overlooking the beach playing Britney Spears’ “Everytime” as the girls sing along while wearing bathing suits, pink ski masks, and dancing with guns. By the numbers, it seems stupid, but it surprisingly works.
On the surface, this movie comes off has a grotesque display of excess and teenaged entitlement, but it’s in fact, the exact opposite. Korine’s film magnifies the shallowness of Spring Break and while the characters never stop claiming about all the fun they’re having, it always rings false, especially in the repetitive voiceovers that are read flat and disinterested. There always seems to be detached feelings when it comes to how the girls experience the events unfold, and it plays to the theme of the vapid exploits of an increasingly vapid culture.
Spring Breakers looks like it’s a movie that is playing on our most basic enjoyment of seeing young, pretty people have fun and be sexy, but the film is anything but sexy. While beautifully shot and directed, it paints Spring Break as grimy, boring, and the end of Western Civilization. That should save you quite a bit of money on hotels and booze.