Venice 2012: ‘Spring Breakers’ review


Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012) may well be this year’s Venice Film Festival guilty pleasure. It stars two ex-Disney girls, High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez (of Wizards of Waverly Place fame). Gomez plays the aptly-named Faith, befriended by college bad girls Candy (Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine). The trio yearn for excitement beyond their one-horse town, with their ultimate goal being Spring Break in Miami. Too broke to go, they rob a diner. With their cute shorts and dyed hair tucked under balaclavas, they share more than a passing resemblance to Pussy Riot.

However, these girls are a whole other kind of pussy, more akin to the heroines of Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). In Miami they indulge in semi-naked partying, booze and drugs galore. Korine depicts this as something between a Bacchanalian nightmare and a college jock’s wet dream, whilst also leaving you wondering why a girl would ever go on Spring Break. Clearly in trouble, the girls are bailed by rapper/gangster Alien (James Franco), a metal-mouthed, tattooed drug baron who falls in love with his bikini-clad college girls.

At this point, Faith jumps ship, leaving her three gal pals behind. Back at Alien’s mansion, Brit and Candy grab Alien’s guns and point them at him, forcing him to take the barrels in his mouth in an act of fellatio. Instead of abject fear, Alien is all admiration – “I could tell you girls were just like me!” – and thus begins a beautiful relationship. After a shooting, the wounded Cotty heads home. Alien organises an attack on his former friend and mentor, Archie (Gucci Mane).

Before the finale, we see the girls calling their mothers, saying how their trip has been life-changing, that they’ve made wonderful friends and that they want to be better people. This is Korine’s trick: he pulls the audience into the decadence of Spring Break before exposing its soulless underside; he portrays the teenage girls as untameable sex kittens but reveals their childish dreams and desires.

The balance may not always be quite right throughout Korine’s Spring Breakers, and rather than being seen as a depiction of America’s bleak hedonism, it’s equally likely to entice audiences eager to get their rocks off watching Vanessa Hudgens having three-way sex in a pool. Nevertheless, this is a disturbing, sexy and highly entertaining take on the contemporary American Dream.

The 69th Venice Film Festival runs from 29 August-8 September. For more of our Venice 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Jo-Ann Titmarsh