Published on July 10th, 2013 | by Craig Silliphant0
Directed by Harmony Korine (the fucked up brain that brought us the delight that is Gummo), Spring Breakers is a shotgun blast of Lost in Translation meeting Scarface and Taxi Driver, mixed with a gonzo backstage pass to spring break.
The story involves some college girls who are trapped by their (sheltered? spoiled?) existence and break free by robbing enough money to get to spring break. Once there, they go down the rabbit hole of our Girls Gone Wild culture and meet up with a local grillz-wearing rapper played by James Franco (modeled after actual rapper Riff Raff, I’m told. YouTube his video Chop Another Rock for a larf and further insight to this movie’s culture). Franco hands a career-defining performance, one of his offhand flashes of good work that show some skill beyond his stoned, squinty-eyed, ‘I’m James Franco’ shtick.
The girls themselves are inspired casting, choosing two former Disney girls, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez (as well as Korine’s wife Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson) to play against type. The actresses all do a serviceable job here, but only Selena Gomez’s character is given any semblance of depth. In a quick scene, we see her character (named ‘Faith’ in an on-the-nose fashion) sitting in a church group, clapping along with the music, but not really feeling it. We don’t see a telling scene like that for the other three girls; they’re pretty much ciphers, faceless in pink ski masks without real identities.
The movie looks pretty amazing and feels impressionistic, from the soundtrack and the way it’s shot, like a psycho-dreamy Lost in Translation, to the story itself. It doesn’t move in a heavily plot driven fashion — it’s more like snapshots of story that lead you along the way. I think this plays well and adds to its narcotic nature. The only thing in the construction that I didn’t really like was some of the on-the-nose dialogue, but it’s not distracting to the point of damaging the movie.
Spring Breakers works on several levels. It’s an exploitive, violent robbery film with hot chicks in bikinis brandishing guns with milkshakes that surely bring the gangsta wannabes and Affliction wearing crowd to the yard. But it’s also an ironic, biting social commentary — a view of the dark underbelly of spring break that feels like the wake up call to parents that Korine’s writing debut, Kids, was meant to be. I think the movie has its cake and eats it too — it gets mileage out of the same empty people it’s making fun of, and as in the case of Alien, also manages to give him some humanity.
You’re going to find lovers and haters of this movie, and for different reasons I’m sure. I dug it — while I like some of Korine’s weirder stuff, I think Spring Breakers shows that he can blend his sensibility with a bit of proper story and come up with something off the beaten path.
4 Dorks out of 5 on the Geek-o-Meter.