Saturday 6 April 2013


Starring Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as bikini clad bandits and James Franco as a gangster rapping drug lord, Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is now in cinemas.

When four rebellious college students end up in jail during their spring break holiday, hustler Alien (James Franco) bails them out and recruits them as his harem. When they start to perform heists on other 'Spring Breakers', a turf war erupts with Archie, a local gangster.

Director Harmony Korine made his name scripting Larry Clark's Kids, a cautionary HIV infected tale about riotous teens doing horrible things to each other in New York City, and has since built up a cult following by directing films like Gummo and Trash Humpers. To say his films exist on the periphery of Hollywood is an understatement, and by quite a way Spring Breakers is his most mainstream film to date.

At least two of the fold made their names by appearing in Disney fare (Vanessa Hudgens in the High School Musical films and Selena Gomez in numerous godawful tween TV shows), although Hudgens lost her family friendly image early on when nude photos of her appeared online and has taken steps to move on from the studio with "adult" roles in the likes of Machete Kills. On first appearances, Spring Breakers appears to be part of the very scene it is not-so-subtly mocking. The posters make it very clear that the female stars of this film spend a lot of the time in very little clothing, and the trailers sell the film on the Disney Girls Gone Wild concept. Don't get me wrong, it is that; it's just also more than that.

Spring Breakers attempts to show that what you initially thought was wholesome is actually hiding something more raw and that what appears to be unleashed rebellion is merely roleplay. Apart from the conscience led Faith (Gomez), the rest of the group like the idea of causing some mayhem, robbing a diner early on to pay for their trip to Florida and having fun doing it. The idea of bad-ass bikini girls with big guns is rooted in the exploitation genre, and by casting four lead actresses who look incredibly sweet and innocent (including his 26 year old wife), director Harmony Korine is able to use it to his advantage when making use of this concept.

Once clear signpost of this is the use of the infamously imploding Britney Spears' songs, including a poolside rendition of "Everytime" by Franco to his female cohorts. It's ridiculous to the point of being comedic, but all of the girls sing along just as they would have as youngsters, without irony. Of the female roles, Selena Gomez stands out ahead of the pack. Perfectly cast as the church going innocent Faith, she takes the stance a lot of the audience would and when she departs from the madness, the film does lose its grip on reality. It's a shame Gomez's role isn't larger, as the other three girls are mostly interchangeable (to the point where it's a struggle to remember any of their names) and she offers a good juxtaposition to Franco's insanity.

But perhaps that's the point. Franco explodes onto the screen and never looks back. A walking stereotype of Wigga culture with gold teeth and corn rows, Franco's Alien, with all of his "look at my shit" bravado, is immensely quotable and a lot of fun to watch. Riffing on the modern proclivity for gangster rappers to idolise the character of Tony Montana from Scarface, his world is all drugs, guns and women, although when the prospect of facing off against his mortal enemy Archie (real life rapper Gucci Mane) becomes real, he lets his veil slip for a moment to show genuine fear.

It's also quite a beautiful film to see and hear. Shot in an eternal sunset, the whole film seems dreamlike and ethereal, with scenes lasting seconds and whispered dialogue foreshadowing what's to come and echoing what has just happened. From the opening credits to the final showdown it burns bright with neon colours, and the music by Skrillex makes it seem like one non-stop party, albeit one with dramatic highs and lows.

Thanks to the casting of Franco in a barnstorming role, Spring Breakers is Harmony Korine's most accessible film to date, and also his best. Point Break with added Badlands and Doom Generation, Spring Breakers shows the unwanted hangover of a generation who exist in a world with a lack of consequence; until it slaps them in the face, that is.


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