Harmony Korine writes and directs this story of four girls who hit up Florida to celebrate Spring Break. If Korine’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he wrote two of Larry Clark’s controversial films: Kids and Ken Park, the latter of which was banned in many countries – including Australia. His work as a director (Gummo, Mister Lonely, Trash Humpers) has always received polarizing opinions. His bizarre – and often offensive – stylings have brought both haters and followers to his table.
You know what you’re in for as soon as Spring Breakers begins. It opens with a gratuitous, in-your-face, yet all too realistic and familiar montage of young people celebrating Spring Break on the beaches of Florida. Thumping dance music with slo-mo images of bouncing breasts and intoxicated youth. Prepare for plenty, plenty more of this. Yes, the ‘Girls Gone Wild’ thing is certainly driven home throughout this film and Korine’s direction borders on exploitation. Still, Spring Breakers is a curiosity that may not be as superficial as it first appears.
Four college girls, using money from a restaurant robbery, decide to celebrate Spring Break in Florida. When they’re arrested at a crazy party they are bailed out by Alien, a gangster-rapper that promises the girls the kind of excitement and lifestyle that he thinks they would want. The plot is very simple, but it’s the type of film that can be looked at with a little more depth.
Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine (Harmony’s real life wife), Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson are very good in their roles. Admittedly, they don’t have that much to do other than be convincing as wild youngsters, whilst looking good in their bikinis. Out of the girls, Selena Gomez gets the most to work with. She’s quite good as the church-going girl that finds herself conflicted between following her friends and doing what is “right”.
In terms of performance, this film belongs to James Franco. He gives a unique, strong and gutsy turn that captures your attention the second he appears. His Alien is by no means a nice guy. In fact, he’s an insane criminal that is clearly taking advantage of the naivety of these young girls. But there’s something ultimately likeable about this out-of-this-world character. His morals may be non-existent, but his dedication and love for these girls does come across as genuine.
Spring Breakers is filmed and edited like something straight out of MTV. This filmmaking approach can get monotonous and repetitive, but it’s strangely inspired. It’s like looking at the world through the eyes of these sexually charged group of girls. There’s a heightened sense of reality throughout the film that gives it a strange, almost nightmarish, quality. In so many ways, this is like a horror film – especially for parents who may not fully realise the antics that today’s teenagers get up to. Aesthetically, the film benefits from Benoît Debie, the cinematographer behind Irreversible, The Runaways and Get the Gringo. There’s also an experimental soundscape that furthers the film’s surrealism.
I feel torn as to how I really feel about Spring Breakers. I see how one could view this as an overly flashy movie that is both gratuitous and, yes, offensive, but I couldn’t help but connect to the film’s bizarre sense of power. Spring Breakers is a visually impressive, surreal, morality tale. I’ll go so far as to say that it may be an important film that speaks on the corruptibility of youth and the appeal that predators can hold. At one point Alien says, “Y’all be careful of that water. Lots of sharks out there… Bunch of vicious mother****ers out there just lurkin’.” Indeed.