When four young college girls from Nowhere, Middle America don’t have enough money to head to Florida for Spring break, they turn to crime. Robbery is only the beginning of the debaucherous behaviour in Spring Breakers. Review after the jump.
To escape their mundane existence, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and to a lesser extent, church-going Faith (Selina Gomez), want nothing more to go to Spring Break – the annual holiday of excess and no rules; where college kids can act out their fantasies, and forget their beige realities.
Their lack of funds is only a minor obstacle, which Cotty, Candy and Brit quickly overcome by committing a robbery. The girls treat the robbery “like a videogame”, removing themselves from reality, and enjoying the rush it provides. With the robbery providing the girls the money needed, they high-tail it to every father’s worst nightmare – Spring break. Topless woman, horny men, drugs, alcohol and every sort of dodgy deal imaginable. This apparently is the dream, the escape they needed.
A run-in with the law sees the girls make the acquaintance of local gangster and “rapper” Alien (James Franco). This is when things take a turn to the dark side. Suddenly drunken hook-ups and a few pills seem like school yard games. Guns, armed robbery, drug dealing and a man with a piano on the patio – this is the turn Spring break takes. For some this is too much, while for others this is the existence that makes them feel truly alive for the first time.
Spring Breakers is a fluro-coloured, dubstep-scored smack in the face. It demands your attention from the thundering opening bars of the obnoxious music, and it never lets up. The party scenes portrayed in the film are to the extreme, but they aren’t that far from what many of us may have experienced as naïve high school or university students, looking for a bit of fun. This is actually the genius part about this film, and in my opinion is what saves it. There is just enough here for it to be disturbingly real and believable. Korine has tapped into the psyche of a generation who get whatever they want, no matter what the personal or financial costs are. Getting high, hooking up, doing crazy things in pursuit of escape; these are the scary social norms in our society. After all, this is the generation who were told they could do anything they put their mind to.
While the film is successful in taking the pulse of the reckless youth, it also portrays the sexual fantasies of men; or at least those of writer-director Harmony Korine. I can’t help but wonder if the sexual fantasies of the director just happen to align with the reckless sexual behaviour of the fringe; and perhaps the film isn’t quite as insightful as I, and many others are giving it credit for. The repetitive crotch shots of the young actresses (particularly those shot underwater), along with the disproportional high percentage of female nudity compared to male nudity really didn’t sit well with me. This film is undoubtedly sleazy and it left me feeling very dirty.
Despite the questionable motives behind the film, I have to give the film praise for its perfect, sexually charged electro soundtrack; as well as the fantastic cinematography in some of the party scenes. Sitting in the cinema, it felt like I was watching the party unfold in front of my eyes. The music pulsated, the camera bounced, and the atmosphere was electric. At times it also felt like a party that I desperately wanted to escape from but couldn’t because my friend was my ride home and she was still having fun.
James Franco is nothing short of brilliant in this film. He was so utterly transformed into the sleaze-ball Alien, that I didn’t even recognise him the first time that he came on screen. This film is worth seeing for his jaw-dropping performance alone. While the girls all do a good job, they are well and truly shown up by the white trash that Franco portrays.
Spring Breakers transcends reality to take you to a place where dreams and nightmares play out side-by-side. The question is, do you want to go for the ride?
By Sam McCosh
Director: Harmony Korine
Writer(s): Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez
Runtime: 94 minutes
Release Date(s): Australia & New Zealand: May 9, 2013; USA: 22 March, 2013