Film Review: ‘Spring Breakers’

James Franco (seriously) plays rapper/drug lord/ruffian Alien in Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" Credit: Annapurna Pictures
James Franco (seriously) plays rapper/drug lord/ruffian Alien in Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers”
Credit: Annapurna Pictures

‘Spring Breakers’
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

The Spring Breakers of the title — religious Faith (Selena Gomez) plus bad girl friends-since-kindergarten Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) — are bored at the start of Harmony Korine’s super-stylized exploitation drama. Despondent with their flat-looking campus and wanting to see “something new,” the three evil girls rob a Chicken Shack restaurant, then collar Faith and head to Florida for drugs and demonstrative hedonism.

Party montages ensue, and during a cocaine-heavy afternoon the cops show up. Up to this point, “Spring Breakers” keeps a straight face, giving sex-minded viewers what they came for: copious anonymous toplessness and young women giving porn-minded frat boys what they expect. From Gaspar Noe, an equally provocation-minded director, Korine borrows both cinematographer Benoit Debie and a modified unnerving sound effect. In Noe’s feature debut “I Stand Alone,” gunshots go off on the soundtrack for no reason and with little warning, scaring audiences with random noise alone. Here, Korine similarly jacks up the sound of a gun being cocked, an audio link with dubstep terror Skrillex’s bass thumping. Violent rhythms presage actual violence, with random kids destroying rooms as a partying highlight.

When the MTV-plus-boobs good times end, Faith et al. are bailed out by aspiring rapper/drug lord/freelance ruffian Alien (James Franco). Reveling in his money, his platinum grille and a TV with a constant loop of “Scarface,” he’s a self-proclaimed “gangsta” with enough guns for his own final Pacino-esque shootout. He’s a goofy, inspired comic creation burdened with the responsibility of spelling out Korine’s themes. “This is America,” Alien explains. “This is the American dream.”

That dream has to inevitably reveal itself a nightmare, presumably darkening and curdling the earlier T&A. The girls and Alien share a communal narration track, an unabashed nod to Terrence Malick, whose 1974 debut “Badlands” similarly gives Sissy Spacek an uncomprehending, flat voiceover over a murderous summer spree. The girls are vapid, bad commenters on their own story, manically fixated on partying and singing Britney Spears.

Repetitively nihilistic, it’s a movie making predictable visual poetry — jacked-up neon lights at night, drugged-out partiers reaching transcendence through exhaustion — out of girls whose only viable aspirations for transcendence go no further than the worst week in Florida. That’s sad, but Korine’s beautiful losers are interchangeable, and his shockingly clunky third-act exposition punctures any ambitions for a death-charged dream reverie.


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