No director captures the exploitative and voyeuristic aspects of teen life like Harmony Korine. Almost 20 years after writing the cult classic, Kids, Korine has channeled his focus on an annual rite of passage and centered the story on four bored college students who want more excitement than school can offer in the thriller, Spring Breakers.
College friends, Faith, Candy, Brit, and Cotty (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) share a dorm room and wish for excitement and pleasure instead of their boring school lives. As they prepare for spring break vacation, the four find themselves without sufficient funds for a trip to Florida. To score quick money for their trip, the girls successfully rob a convenience store, and they are on their way to fun in the sun in the Sunshine State.
Soon, the ladies days are filled with cruising on mopeds and partying on the beach to nights filled with alcohol-fueled adventures and private reflections on their lives. Unfortunately, while the girls are partying to their heart’s content, soon they are picked up and arrested on drug charges. Strangely, they are bailed out by a hustling gangster, Alien (James Franco), who takes the party animals under his wing and into his vast criminal underworld. As the young friends are seduced by the suave and dangerous bad boy, it becomes unclear on how far they will go to have an unforgettable spring break experience.
Initially, it took a while to capture Korine’s rhythm, since early in the story he floods your consciousness with plenty of T&A, drugs and other illicit activity. His script also mocks one character’s spiritual choice before she joins her close friends for an entertaining walk on the wild side. Soon it becomes apparent that this story of female outlaws is less about their actions but the prejudices’ and judgments that we place on them.
Korine’s script is ballsy but exploitative with far too many shots of female genitalia that almost made the audience feel like peeping toms. He gets some wonderful bad girl performances out of several former Disney regulars including Gomez and Hudgins as they transition from their teen personas to harder adult roles.
But the big surprise in this film is Franco who is nothing short of a revelation. He performs with a perverted sense of glee that has been missing from some of his earlier celebrated performances. With his hair in braids, grills on his fronts and the attitude to match, Franco totally loses himself in the role perfectly adopting the persona of someone in the criminal life. His constant refrain of “spring break, spring break, spring break forever,” still rings in my ears and also serves as Korine’s take-home message for this story that should excite just as many filmgoers as it will most certainly repulse.