Film Review: ‘Spring Breakers’

A fluorescent, hypnotic orgy of guns, girls, drugs and electro, American indie cinema’s enfant terrible Harmony Korine eschews the low budget trappings of his previous feature, 2009’s bizarre Trash Humpers (which voyeuristically followed a group of garbage-mounting Nashville pensioners), for the sun-drenched, liquor-soaked Florida coastline of Spring Breakers (2011). Here, four bold and brash college students initially bite off more than they can chew during their summer ‘spring break’ festivities before ingratiating themselves into a world of armed robbery, gang warfare and – as is age appropriate – melancholic Britney Spears ballads.

After robbing a local diner to fund their debauched vacation, BFFs Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and the aptly-named Faith (Selena Gomez) hop aboard the next bus to freedom for several weeks of hardcore partying. Once in Florida, however, the quartet are arrested for possession of narcotics before being bailed out unexpectedly by garish local hoodlum Alien (James Franco). A smirking shark in a sea of coed-consuming predators, Alien takes a shining to these fish out out water, introducing them to a seductive and enticing lifestyle of drinking, drug-taking, gang-banging and (most importantly) his worldly ‘shit’.

Despite several protestations to the contrary, Korine’s Spring Breakers is a razor sharp satire on teenage America’s nightmarish regurgitation of the ‘Dream’, unafraid to dip its toes into this mire of moral decay and revel in its self-gratifying absurdity. Blending the ‘get rich or die trying’ didactic of Brian de Palma’s Scarface (1983) with Russ Meyer-style exploitation (the opening sequence alone is a lurid cacophony of house music and undulating breasts), Korine opens up the dark, still beating heart of the ‘Sunshine State’ for all to see. Yet inside lurks not the Tony Montanas or Vixens of this world, but America’s youth red in tooth and fake nails, ready to take what they deem as theirs – with no time for passengers.

Having miraculously secured the participation of former House of Mouse clan members Hudgens and Gomez, Korine’s trump card transpires to be a near-unrecognisable Franco. Hit-and-miss at the best of times, with Alien, Franco has created one of the most repulsive, yet strangely sympathetic comic creations of recent years. A self-proclaimed visitor from another world (i.e. a poor white kid from a rundown neighbourhood who awoke one day to find himself a prince, no longer a pauper), Alien is every bit as terrifying as he is ridiculous, a 21st century harlequin armed to the silver-plated teeth with firearms, nunchucks and boardshorts. Masculinity proves only be skin-deep, however, as Candy and Brit begin to turn the tables on their knight in bling-laden armour.

A rather underwhelming climactic shoot-out aside (whether this is just another of the girl’s day-glo daydreams is never truly established), Spring Breakers still somehow manages to feel like a Harmony Korine film first and foremost – and already looks set to be his most commercially successful outing to date on both sides of the Pond. Blazing a vicious, nacissitic trail straight through the eternally sacred ‘American Dream’, Korine has reaffirmed himself as one of his nation’s most challenging, uncompromising talents, effortlessly absorbing a decade’s worth of popular culture before expunging it wildly back across our screens – Britney and all.

Daniel Green

Founded in 2010, CineVue’s team of passionate cinéastes are working to bring you reviews of the latest cinema releases, as well as features, interviews and international film festival coverage.


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