Film Review – Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine’s filmography to date is nothing if not provocative. His claim to (moderate) fame, 1995’s Kids, proved a seedy force to be reckoned with and traumatized teenagers of a certain age with its frankness towards adolescent sexuality. Continuing this despair-ridden trend with the likes of Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy, and Trash Humpers (among countless others to at least some degree), Korine has developed a unique if too often perplexing voice. Spring Breakers looked to me an attempt to break this mold and go for something, well, not exactly crowd-pleasing, but at least a hook you could sink your teeth into. A group of young bikini-clad girls perpetrate a robbery and high tail it to Florida with their earnings for some fun in the sun. Mm, yeah, not exactly…
Disney mainstays Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens star alongside Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson as a group of hard-partying friends with names like Candy and Cotty looking to escape their podunk hometown in order to reach new levels of debauchery. How they became this way isn’t remotely clear, but when the girls enter a local family restaurant to rob it and gleefully terrify customers with fake guns and sledgehammers, it’s obvious something isn’t right. And that they’re (un?)lucky to have found each other.
Their motivations remain frustratingly vague, as every “conversation” we observe is more a rambling non-discussion of their supposed badassness. The movie proceeds this way for, no joke, 45 minutes before James Franco’s “Alien” enters the scene to bail the girls out of jail after they’re caught for one of their several misdeeds. The girls are quickly taken under his hazy, gold-teethed spell, and look on in awe as he blathers about money and bitches and guns. And blathers. And blathers. Don’t be fooled by his flashy first few scenes, as it soon devolves back into nothingness. Back to square one.
I’m not a dumb man and recognize what Korine is attempting to do here. Without proper guidance, our children have the scary but very real potential to run amok. On top of that, the lack of remorse and general malaise further implies the harrowing lives these girls must have led as children in order to reach this point. That’s all well and good, and could make for a fascinating case study. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.
Franco is clearly having a blast, and his eventual presence comes as a great relief after nearly an hour of staggering blandness. Even he seems to grow bored after his fifth or so tirade, though, and we as an audience are left with nothing left to grasp on to. Hopes of redemption briefly creep in, leading up to a ludicrous action setpiece, but even this loses steam before taking a turn towards absurdity I don’t think anyone on the set would be able to reasonably justify.
Gomez and Hudgens have apparently chosen Spring Breakers as their gateway project into more adult fare. Too bad then that their performances here are shoddily mediocre. I’m sure the script called for dead eyes, and the purposeful lack of meaningful dialogue would prove challenging even for the most seasoned of actors. But like every other aspect of Spring Breakers, they seem helplessly lost at sea.
Final Grade: D