Written and directed by Harmony Korine
From celebrated American indie iconoclast Korine, responsible for bizarro gems like Gummo and Trash Humpers, Spring Breakers arrives as probably his most broadly accessible work. And people are still going to have big problems with it, because it refuses to be one thing.
The picture works as both a celebration of the outright hedonism of Spring Break excess in Florida, as well as party movies in general, while also being a satire of the same. It works as a girls-gone-bad exploitation sleaze, a descendant of Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, and as a comedic take-off of that kind of male-gaze entertainment. What it isn’t is shabby: Korine knows what he’s doing here. The movie’s buzz, hum and punch is delightfully unique.
Three very vapid, very bored co-eds Candy, Brit and Cotty—played by the hard-to-tell-apart Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson, along with Rachel Korine, the director’s wife—are looking to go to Florida for the annual booze, drugs and sun-fest that is Spring Break. In order to subsidize their trip they steal a car and hold up a local diner. In one amazing tracking shot through the car window they totally bust the place up, getting away with handfuls of cash for their trouble.
Off they go down south, taking along their longtime BFF Faith (Selena Gomez), a good church-going girl who never quite got as badass as her friends. Florida is transformative for the quartet, one long beer-drenched, flesh-pot hip hop video. At least until the cops intervene. The girls are bailed out by Alien (a transformed James Franco), a self-styled gangsta and drug-dealer managing a territorial beef with his former best friend. What he doesn’t realize is his new “molls” are more out of control than he is.
What you’ll notice is Korine’s habit of repeating key dialogue through voice-over. Count how many times someone says the words “spring break.” The hip hop comparison is especially apt: the script is like a rhyme—with dialogue this sparse, I wouldn’t be surprised if the script was 60 pages—with scenes and interconnected imagery replayed from different angles, verses and choruses, the soundtrack punctuated by beats, guns locking and loading, jagged edits, and the narrative flashing forward and back. A great moment in the midst of the third act has two of the girls calling their mothers. Only later do you realize that was a flash-forward.
The movie is very funny, too. Depending on your disposition, you could see Franco’s Alien as a total clown, or a very dangerous dude. Probably both. The film also manages a genuine hard edge; witness the fetishization of all the guns in the trailer. That goes a lot further in this Rated 18A-in-Nova Scotia feature film.
I saw Spring Breakers as both a modern, woozy Alices in Wonderland and a critique of the emptiness of youth culture, where meaning is sought in excess. That’ll seem poetic to some. But, with the possible exception of Faith, these are sociopathic, unlikeable, self-absorbed people. That Korine makes us care at all about them and their tale is a credit to him.
It’s his talent as a storyteller that makes Spring Breakers the first must-see movie of 2013. Go to have an opinion on a movie the likes of which you won’t take in again this year, or most others.