SXSW FILM 2013
By Don Simpson | March 17, 2013
Director: Harmony Korine
Writer: Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine, Heather Morris, Emma Holzer, Gucci Mane, Ash Lendzion, Cait Taylor
Writer-director Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a candy-colored male fantasy flick with lots of teenage girls carelessly flaunting their young, nubile bodies. The male gaze is omnipresent in Korine’s virginal foray into the realm of style-over-substance — well, okay, there is a little substance to the plot as Spring Breakers does contemplate the desire of girls to express their freedom by way of booze and bikinis.
Four best friends — Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) — are determined to go to St. Pete Beach for Spring Break. Like tunnel-visioned religious fanatics planning a pilgrimage to their own perverse version of Mecca, nothing will stop them, not even a lack of money. One way or another they will get on that bus, even if it means donning balaclavas and breaking the law.
Upon arrival at St. Pete Beach, Spring Break is in full swing. It is their own version of heaven, a place that they can shed any inhibitions and responsibilities…along with 90% of their clothing. That is until they end up in jail for doing exactly what everyone else seems to be doing.
Enter Alien (James Franco), a cartoonish Caucasian with cornrows and grills, who bails the girls out of jail and takes them under his wing. A rapper and drug dealer, Alien exposes the girls to a significantly seedier side of Spring Break. Alien’s shit — mainly his wealth and weaponry — mesmerizes the girls, luring them deeper and deeper into his dangerous subculture. When Alien enters into a senseless turf war with his arch-nemesis, Archie (Gucci Mane), what began as a girls gone wild scenario instantaneously devolves into girls gone cray cray. The college kids dancing on the beach seems like Disney World in comparison to Alien’s lifestyle (a comparison that is accentuated by the casting of three Disney alumni Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens in the leading roles).
Korine attempts to lull us into a hypnotized state of consciousness with repetitive dialogue and images. We see the same tits and asses bouncing again and again and again; and don’t even get me started on how many times we hear James Franco intone “Spring Breaaaaak!” According to Korine, Spring Breakers is intended to play like a dream, so the sounds and images repeat until our brains can make sense of the utter nonsense. Spring Breakers is like Kids told through the dreamlike filter of Ecstasy and day glow sticks. The teens of both films express their freedom without any consideration of the possible consequences; therefore, imprisonment or death are likely outcomes for the protagonists in both films. But where as Kids is shot with a gritty neo-realist lens, Spring Breakers exists somewhere in the neon-drenched ether floating between the hyper-real and the surreal.
Benoît Debie’s transcendental cinematography — teamed perfectly with Cliff Martinez and Skrillex’s soundtrack — is reason enough to experience Spring Breakers. Watching Spring Breakers is a fantastic experience that makes even the seediest environments alluring, I just wish there was something more to back-up the gratuitous nature of the images. Throughout his career, Korine has consistently revealed a unique perspective of the world; but with Spring Breakers I feel like Korine might have something profound to say but it is buried way too deep beneath the tits and ass. Spring Breaaaaak!