SPRING BREAKERS, 2013
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine
Review by Joshua Starnes
Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.
A group of bikini clad co-eds can't wait to head down to Florida for Spring Break and leave their lives behind, but they've got a problem. They have no money. Being diligent, pugnacious young women they examine their problem and quickly solve it. They decide to rob a local restaurant and use the money to pay for their vacation.
This sounds like something which if it went through the typical Hollywood grist-mill would produce a vapid 'comedy' along the lines of "Man of the House." But this is coming from the mind of Harmony Korine ("Kids") which means not only is salaciousness going to be shoved at you, it's going to be shoved at you to make some sort of point. What that point is no one can probably say, not even Korine himself, but it's not just there titilate.
Which is hard to argue when you spend a film following three Hollywood ingenues in bikinis or less the entire time. Bikini clad ingeneues with machine guns, knocking over liqour stores and robbing Florida vacationers. And all done in a repetetive, dreamy, almost hypnotic style which keeps assaulting you with the same images and words over and over and until they can't help but lodge in your brain.
"Spring Breakers" takes the idea of spring break itself -- a vacation from real life where the young can do away with all the normal morays of society while the world looks the other way -- and plays that out to its logical extreme. Spring Break is fine when its just about sex and drinking, good old fashioned fun. But if there are no rules then why stop there, why not move on to robbery and murder?
Ringleaders Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Brit (Ashley Benson) certainly think so, and have no problems pushing their friends Faith (Selena Gomez) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) that way as well, without stopping to think what those choices are actually doing to them.
Which would be great if the story didn't keep running into the wall of Korine's directorial ADHD. His story flows not just with its images, but also through its characters, moving stream of conciousness through them and offering the audience little in the way of point of view to hang on to as people enter and exit the narrative without warning.
It doesn't really solidify until drug and arms dealer Alien (James Franco) arrives on the scene to almost totally carry the film. A white rapper/gangster from Saint Pete, Alien is the charismatic, insane soul of the film, enticing the girls to greater and greater debauchery. It's basically a license for Franco to go hog wild with his most out there instincts and it works more often than not. Watching Franco at a piano, in character, serenading the girls with Britney Spears songs is almost worth the price of admission.
A pean to the old, old theme about getting what you want and wanting what you get, "Spring Breakers" does have something to say about the way we romanticize sex and violence and what that actually does to people. The way it covers up what is really important in life.
The problem is Korine the writer is much better at getting that across than Korine the director and he desperately needs someone to keep his message in line and make it stick. In his own hands it remains unfortunately like a dream--immensely affecting, but also quickly forgotten.