Directed by Harmony Korine
Come, walk on the dark side and witness spring break as voluntary nightmare with your host Harmony Korine. When four girls commit gun-waving robbery to pay for the annual ritual, the T&A and beer are in plentiful supply, the casting is impeccably calculated, the colors bright as candy and lurid as decay, the morality tossed aside as lightly as a bikini top. But as Spring Breakers snazzily conflates brands of thrill-seeking, licit and otherwise, by addled American girls half Korine's age, why does this culture-jammer by the director of Gummo-through-Trash Humpers also bear the faintest whiff of a 60 Minutes report through the looking glass?
Granted, Korine has succeeded in getting a few faces of pseudo-innocence into a more open than usual piece of exploitation (in a marketing move more indebted to porn than acknowledged). Disney TV star Selena Gomez, perhaps the greatest get, plays Faith, a Bible studies attendee who joins rakehell dormmates Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and (Harmony’s wife) Rachel Korine on their mission to make St. Petersburg. Spiked throughout, like trailers within the film, is mixed footage of spring breakers partying on the sand and in bare hotel rooms, all shot by DP Benoît Debie (Irreversible, Innocence) with an eye for pink flesh and sun-soaked mayhem. Somehow busted for drug use, the quartet are bailed out by James Franco’s Alien—corn-rowed, modeled on Riff Raff, and living the life (“Look at my shit!”).
Even when the less-than-riveting performances serve the story, there’s a sense of cutting around the stars; the last hour feels like a simple get-rich-or-die-trying plot unnaturally distended. Korine again draws on masks and denaturing visual effects (saturation, slo-mo, graininess) to throw the audience off balance in charting an underworld in which Faith is explicitly warned against her “demon blood”-ed companions. Speaker-fuzzing bass helps turn bland TRL beach bacchanalias into observed rituals (mouths curled in whooos); for the criminal adventures themselves, we’re just along for the ride. A high point of tension comes when two of the girls (we hardly notice that the others are out of the picture) out-skeeze Alien in his white-piano-on-a-terrace condo as he eagerly fellates one of their guns, echoing the popsicle-sucking almost comically front-and-center in earlier montages.
Everybody’s miserable because they see the same things” goes one whine early on; “Act like you’re in a movie” is the psych-up for the burglary that funds the Florida trip; “Seeing all this money makes my pussy wet” is Korine getting Vanessa Hudgens to say something. Is Trash Humpers the better film? The id-driven savant-like yelps and murmurs, the Dadaist antics and luxuriantly wonky beauty in so much of Korine’s work seems lost here in a project that sees the filmmaker hamstrung by his own concept, and weirdly dazzled by James Franco tiresomely vamping it up or Gucci Mane being present. And as he and Debie play up their voyeurism of the young stars’ anatomies, duller moments had me wondering whether the 40-year-old filmmaker hadn’t just grown up to be partly Larry Clark (whose Kids, which Korine wrote, climaxed with that 1995 ne-plus-ultra cliff’s-edge of unprotected sex). Spring Breakers is a sanctioned prank nonetheless worth having, but it risks stating the obvious.
Opens March 15