Spring Breakers is an uncouth and unapologetic look at the hedonistic world of spring break, where college students head to the beach for a 24/7 party land where truly anything goes. Promoted almost solely on sexuality of the four main “good girls, gone bad”, the trailers promise enough wild antics to make even the most promiscuous of viewer choke on their popcorn. Fortunately while director Harmony Korine does include numerous and excessively leering shots, there’s at least a little substance deep under it all, and an interesting concept to drive the film forward.
Casting ex-Disney and Nickelodeon alumni Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson, it’s fair to say this is a culture shock for the reputations of the (mostly) squeeky clean trio. Alongside Korine’s real life wife, Rachel Korine, Candy, Brit, Faith and Cotty are four college BFFs bored of the same old college lectures in their same old small childhood town. The girls need to let loose, so set their heart of partying at spring break and a chance to at last experience life outside of their narrow community for the first time, though deciding to hold up a diner just to find the funds to make it to Miami, perhaps they should have seen the forewarning it might be a little taste of what might come.
Greeted with never-ending, slow-motion shots of shamefully lustful party scenes, it’s not long before you’ll feel dirty peering through Korine’s lecherous lens, but at least there’s a little more plotline to follow. At one of the no-holds-barred parties the paradise quickly descends into mayhem, and the girls end up behind bars when an illegal party is shutdown. With their fairy tale seemingly coming to an end, in steps Alien (James Franco) – a part-time rapper and full time gangster – to bail the girls out with one hand, but descend them in to his underground lifestyle with the other. And before too long the girls have AK-47s over their shoulders, fighting a gang feud with blood written all over it.
Visually, Spring Breakers is entrancing; a gorgeous mix of day-glo, slow-mo and impressive camera work from cinematographer Beniot Debie really sets this film apart from anything you’ll likely to watch all year. Think Enter The Void and you’re on the right track. The pulsating soundtrack from Cliff Martinez (Drive) adds another layer to the trippy atmosphere too, as when the story and laboured performances from the female leads start to leave you a bit jaded, the aesthetics never disappoint. The other star of this film is James Franco, who literally takes Spring Breakers, puts it on his back and carries it for the duration of time he is on-screen. Only the visuals are able to contend with his outlandish and outstanding performance, including one particularly hilarious scene in his bedroom as a gold-toothed gangster.
If you can look beyond Harmony Korine misogynistic, uncomfortably leering view of the women in his film, there is some stuff to enjoy, if it isn’t an unfortunate lack of substance. In casting three child star girls with angelic reputations, Spring Breakers could have been a nice play on their statue as well as exploring what people will do for a good time, but they just leave you detached. Spring Breakers is a stunning, stylish spectacle that well and truly establishes Korine as a master of visual storytelling, even if the narrative leaves a lot to be desired.