Director/Screenwriter: Harmony Korine
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.
Cast: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane
(film synopsis from sxsw.com)
WHO’S IT FOR?: People who aren’t afraid to sift through an unpleasant but realistic experience to find themes worth exploring in unorthodox ways.
Mesmerizing. Fascinating. Sleazy. Fun. Absolutely Insane. Harmony Korine’s latest cinematic misadventure, Spring Breakers, is an artful trash heap with a borderline, nonsensical, nightmare narrative that sees more boobs, blow, and guns than most 80’s action films. Between the nonstop cutaways to shaking boobs and bros using tequila bottles to simulate masturbation, it’s clear that Korine is both exploiting the new age immoral reality displayed and experienced by today’s teens and calling them out on their obnoxious shenanigans that tip the scales of excess. Add in a group of teeny bopper actresses smoking weed, James Franco’s best performance ever, and a pulsating soundtrack that perfectly captures this time in history and you’ve got one of the most entertaining pieces of cinema you’re likely to see anytime soon.
There’s a reason Korine cast the female leads from a stable of modern Disney princesses. Every shot is meant to be uncomfortable forcing you to question whether all of this is right or wrong. While none of them are particularly fleshed out, their journey sure as hell is. They’re broke and want to go on Spring Break so bad that they are willing to rob a store for the money needed to go on a trip. With the money in hand, they quickly get down to Florida where their dreamlike fantasy of vacation starts with a barrage of boobs, drugs, alcohol and future date rapists. This is the dream, they never want to leave, that is until things start to go south and reality starts to set in. After one too many parties, the quartet of renegades find themselves in jail only to be bailed out by wannabe rapper and successful local gangster, Alien. Quickly the fantasy begins to melt away as the consequences of their unadulterated excess begins to take hold when guns are loaded and bullets fly.
In many ways, the film represents an oddball, satirical fairy tale gone completely wrong. The girls think they want to be a part of this idealistic paradise where all they do is do drugs, drink alcohol and have sex in pools. But it’s more complicated than that. Once shit starts to get tough, they struggle to comprehend what’s happening, turning their vacation of heaven into a trip to hell showcasing the worst possible characteristics of a lost generation wallowing in their own fearless fantasies for so long that they are consumed by a much more harsh culture. That’s where Alien comes in. Alien represents an escape, a life that they would love to have in the form of a twisted, gangster version of the American Dream. Money, power, and no real responsibility.
Franco absolutely destroys in a role that will be remembered throughout cinematic history as one of the most deranged, insane and endlessly quotable characters of all time. Decked out with cornrows, steel teeth and a swagger that is unlike anything that I’ve seen, Alien starts as straight-up comedy until you learn to accept his lifestyle and you really believe that he believes every single thing he says. He’s on “spring break foreva” and wants these girls to join him. They do so but not without a few surprises along the way. Korine wisely plays with your expectations, making you think that Alien is in total control, however not everyone wants to be controlled and the temporary courtship suddenly becomes a full-blown partnership.
Vibrant cinematography compliments the aggressive excess with blinding neon lights and a perpetual cloud of haze. Skrillex’s score keeps the film on a rhythmic pace with various party songs thrown in just to get the feel right and the dummies to think that this is a party movie. Anyone who cheers every time an air humping vagina is thrust into the camera clearly doesn’t understand what Korine is doing, but that might be what he’s counting on. Draw in those who likely need to see this the most and hit them with something they weren’t expecting. In that way, the messages get somewhat mixed at times, potentially creating a troubling situation where someone doesn’t get the joke. Spring Breakers is an experience, one that will have you mortified by the end but certainly won’t be something you forget. Much like Alien, I never wanted the experience to end, and it’s too well made to be dismissed outright. Garbage has never looked so good, and I can’t wait for the unsuspecting public to get a chance to see what the American Dream has become. They should be afraid, very afraid.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
Tyler Mager currently reviews movies for CollegeMovieReview.com and comics for Gutters and Panels. He’s also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. Follow him on twitter @tylermager.