Alice Cooper once wrote a song called, “Sex, Death and Money.” That title pretty much sums up "Spring Breakers." Oh, and add in a boatload of drugs, guns (courtesy of the John Rusnack collection), a variety of translucent imagery and an abstract social commentary. It’s basically controlled chaos, kids.
Written and directed by eccentric filmmaker Harmony Korine ("Kids," "Gummo," and something just plain stupid titled "Trash Humpers"), this grimy, yet insanely artistic, tale about four wild college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) venturing down via bus to the beaches of St. Petersburg, Florida, is essentially a beautiful car wreck. It’s not beautiful because of the vibrant bikini-clad starlets, or the abundance of random topless chicks giving the camera the middle-finger while being drenched in alcohol; it’s mainly due to the directing and editing, which is somehow gritty and elegant all at once.
The post-production duo of Korine and editor Douglas Crise executed a delivery style similar to Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life; albeit with a skanky tone. Images/scenes are constantly recycled back through the 94 minute suggestively crude presentation with lines of dialogue from the cast being dubbed over a lot of the time. This storytelling tactic actually keeps one fixated on the screen, even though the target audience will probably just be anxiously awaiting the next set of tits to bounce in gratuitous slow-motion. But just like a car wreck, you don’t want to look away. So at the very least, this flick can keep your attention.
Really that’s all the technical film critic-y stuff that needs to be addressed. Yeah, some of the young easy-on-the-eyes actresses handle the hardcore material (ex. Doing lines of cocaine off a dude in a jockstrap) better than their respective counterparts (Hudgens is hit-n-miss – and at times just lost; Gomez taps out early but Benson and Korine seem right at home). Thing is, their performances are so chopped up it negates their value (for better or worse) to the overall goal. In other words, no harm no foul, with regards to the featured ladies’ talents or lack thereof.
But now let’s focus on the undressed shenanigans…
Look, the first half is quite boring despite the obvious attempts of Korine in trying to shock the audience with stereotypical college escapades. Most of us have seen the antics of spring break on some form of media. The only difference here is that Korine likes to do extreme close-ups of girls’ deep-throating popsicles and/or zoom in on their camel-toe (panties region). And again, this is all captured in slow-mo/quick cutting sequences. There isn’t any type of story forged until the hidden tarnished gem is unearthed from the raunchy depths: James Franco.
A more-than-motivated Franco, who easily (and hilariously) steals the show and enhances every aspect of the much-improved 2nd half, rocks cornrows, tats and a metallic grill (teeth) while wearing jorts (long baggy jean shorts) and talking in a smooth ghetto southern boy accent. He’s a self-proclaimed “hustler,” who earns some hard cash on the “tough” streets of St. Pete. His bedroom is littered with $100 bills and a plethora of firearms. And he’s not afraid to brag, as he repetitively tells the admiring girls, “Look at my shit!”
How Franco and the no-holds barred femme foursome come together (literally and figuratively) revolves around him busting them out of jail for typical party fouls. The girls then strangely feel indebted to him and become enamored with his criminal/free lifestyle. Hell, the majority of them don’t even want to go back to college and start pulling jobs for their charismatic lawless messiah.
And that concludes the plot synopsis (really, it does).
Not much else is happening here besides visual stimulation coated with a musical context. Seeing a violent robbery occur set to a Britney Spears’ ballad shows there is a thought process going on here. And it’s apparent that the bold Korine wanted to project out a purpose or point near the climax (no pun intended) and within the lackluster closing scenes. But the symbolism and character actions are flowing in two different directions and never truly come together (again, no pun intended), despite nuggets of provocative music video-like montages – which are laced throughout the entire product.
With all that being said, and reiterating how the first half of the flick is nothing more than a scrapbook page-turner until Franco strolls in with the goods and something resembling a working storyline, "Spring Breakers" is the most unique movie you’ll see at the moment.
Spring Breakers is rated R and opens in the Tampa Bay market on Friday March 22nd.