Director: Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine
Written by: Harmony Korine
Running Time: 94 mins
Release date: 5th April 2013
I am complete confusion here. Some hours after seeing Spring Breakers I still cannot decide whether I liked it or if it was the most repellant piece of exploitation I have seen. Part of me thinks it’s a visual roller coaster of neon hues and disjointed editing while another part of me thinks this is a 40-year-olds idea of soft porn in the 21st century.
Candy, Brit and Cotty are all at school together with the notorious trip to Florida for Spring Break on the horizon. These three wild children rope their religious-loving childhood friend Faith into coming with them but they lack the funds. One day, the three head out, balaclavas and water pistols at hand and rob a restaurant It’s Florida, here we come for a mess of sex, drugs, drinking and general hedonism. The dream vacation turns sour when the girls are arrested with the threat of spending two days in jail. In comes their white knight, Alien, a local who has plans for his newfound “girlfriends”.
Harmony Korine has always been a controversial figure in independent cinema, having written the nightmare vision, Kids and directed the equally disturbing Gummo. This is most mainstream movie and experimental could be a word I’d use for it. It never, for one moment, stays still. The camera moves from shot to shot, while the editing is disjointed and misplaced, so we see scenes that have happened or future scenes in the middle of what we are watching now. When I say mainstream, I mean this will probably attract more viewers than his previous work. It’s far from mainstream in its style.
Lit in oranges, blues, yellows, it’s like watching someone with a hangover visualise what they are seeing. It also, in the first 45 minutes at least, seem to have a fairly unhealthy obsession with near naked women. Long lingering shots of topless women having beer poured over them and simulations of sexual acts fill the screen at almost every given chance as we enter the world of the Spring Breakers and you find yourself wondering if you have accidentally wandered into a soft porn movie.
This does get very repetitive and rather boring as you wait for something interesting to happen. Then when James Franco arrives on the scene, the film changes pace and tone and while we are still surrounded by half naked women (the four leads mainly) it’s not as sexploitative and we head into a darker place as the girls look to “gangsta” Alien as a guide to an immoral life.
The performances are wafer thin. One of the obvious draws to the film is the jump from Disney queens to adulthood for Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. Gomez was the surprise for me. The former Ms Justin Bieber had the most depth as far as her character was concerned as she battled the morals issues being thrown up onto her. The scene where she begs to go home is a high point Ms Hudgens, on the other hand, is given very little to develop apart from wearing a bikini, making out with Ashley Benson and becoming every mothers nightmare. Same really applies to Ms Benson and Rachel Korine (yes, she’s married to Harmony).
Franco’s Alien is an opportunity for the actor to be as far away from his Wizard of Oz as possible. Almost unrecognizable in cornrows and silver teeth, he is allowed to overact like crazy as the drug dealer determined to rule Florida once the Spring Breakers are gone and reap the benefits when they are there. With all the trappings of a man without taste, a wall full of weapons, Scarface on “re-peat” and a piano by an open-air pool, his appearance lifts the film to another level.
So why am I so conflicted? Mainly because I really wanted to hate the film for all its sleazy aspects and yet it is incredibly brave to attempt something so visually unique. You are drawn into this world of sex and drugs and then pulled out kicking and screaming once the fun stops. I guess I’m going to have to sit on the fence for this one and let you really make up your minds. One thing’s for sure, it certainly stays with you long after it is over.