Digital Reporter Michael Lyons reviews Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine, a champion of obscure art house films, is an enigma. What goes on inside his head is a secret that only he knows. His last film, Trash Humpers, is about as weird as it gets. Due to its content, it was not seen by many. Spring Breakers, due to its content, is receiving a lot more interest. No doubt casting Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and James Franco also helps. Suddenly, Korine is under the microscope, and I don’t think people know how to react. Whether you expect Spring Breakers to be an out-and-out satire or formulaic teen flick, you will be disappointed either way. Because, truth be told, it isn’t either of those. Spring Breakers is what is – a film by Harmony Korine.
Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are mischievous college girls, looking for an escape from their boring lives. So, like most other college goers, they head south to Florida for Spring Break. Wild parties and drunken debauchery ensue, until the girls are arrested for drug possession. Local gangster, Alien (James Franco), spots his chance in predatory fashion and bails the girls out of jail. Funded by Alien, Spring Break continues, and things get crazier and crazier. Where will this hedonistic behaviour lead them?
It is a rather simplistic plot, and the characters are quite two-dimensional. However, the casting and performances are glorious. Selecting America’s good girls – Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson – to play wild party animals was an intentionally provocative choice and adds a shock factor to their characters’ actions. James Franco’s performance as Alien is caricatured at points and borders on parody, but I think it all works. Franco’s southern accent is hypnotic, and his dialogue whether scripted or improvised is very quotable. I doubt Franco will win any awards for his performance, but I suspect Alien will become a cult-like figure to many.
Is Spring Breakers another example of style over substance? This film’s style is its substance. The experience of watching this film is overwhelming – vivid colours, quick cutting and a blaring soundtrack combine together to attack your senses. It has a liquid-like structure where scenes bleed together; at any one time, you’re watching something from the past, present, and future. This non-linear form is disconcerting and the constant looping can feel repetitive, but it’s also fascinating.
Korine is not afraid of controversy; his first film, Kids, tackled the subject of HIV. Spring Breakers does contain nudity, sex and drug use, but I think it unsettles people because it doesn’t condone or condemn the behaviour on screen. Korine’s film is not a satire or social commentary, it is simply an experiment or jest. Spring Breakers kind of defies all genres, but if you want to watch a 94-minute rhythmic ‘pop poem’, then this film is for you.
Spring Breakers continues to screen at Cornerhouse. Book tickets and watch the trailer here.