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“Spring Breakers”

Susan Granger’s review of “Spring Breakers” (A24)

 

Given the mythic popularity of “Girls Gone Wild” beach party fantasies, perhaps it was inevitable that some filmmaker would transfer the beer-soaked, bouncing babes-in-and-out-of-bikinis decadence and debauchery into the mainstream. And no one seems more suited for this trashy task than avant-garde Harmony Korine, the diabolical, self-indulgent auteur of subculture
“Gummo,” “Kids” and “Trash Humpers.” He’s joined in this rowdy rebellion by defiant, formerly squeaky-clean Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, along with Ashley Benson (“Pretty Little Liars”) and his own wife, Rachel Korine – fluorescently photographed by cinematographer Benoit Debie, set to Cliff Martinez’ propulsive soundtrack and psychotropically edited by Douglas Crise.

The seedy story, such as it is, revolves around four coeds who are eager to go to Florida for spring break but lack the cash. While church-going Faith (Gomez) prays, the other three – Candy (Hudgens), Brit (Benson) and Cotty (Korine) – armed with squirt guns, a sledgehammer and hidden by ski masks, rob a roadside restaurant, hootin’: “Pretend like it’s a video game!”

Fully funded, the quartet takes off for gyrating, sun-soaked fun in St. Petersburg. All too soon, however, their hallucinatory bacchanal of drinking, dancing and drugging lands them in jail, where they’re bailed out by Alien (James Franco), a sleazy, swaggering, heavily tattooed gangsta rapper who transports them to his meth-funded mansion to admire his acquisitions, amid madness and mayhem. Faith soon hops a bus home but her three friends become his gang. Then Cotty departs, leaving Candy and Brit in a gleefully seductive shoot’em up with automatic weapons.

Seemingly energized by his henna-tinted cornrows and glittering teeth, James Franco is far more effective, belting Britney Spears’ ballad “Everytime” on his white, poolside piano and existentially chanting “spring break forever” to these
garish celebrants, than he was as the wanderlust wizard coping with three
witches in Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.”  ‘Just sayin.’

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Spring Breakers” is a voyeuristic, visually exploitive, hyper-sexualized 6, a creepily calculated, cinematic commentary about the superficial emptiness of our youth-driven pop culture.

 

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