Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers featured image

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Harmony Korine, director and writer

Starring: James Franco (Alien), Selena Gomez (Faith),Vanessa Hudgens (Candy), Ashley Benson (Brit),Rachel Korine (Cotty), Gucci Mane (Big Arch)


The buzz
Harmony Korine, the aging enfant terrible of New York’s underground and Indie scene, has made a film with a plot! And he’s cast former Disney princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as two of a bumptious quartet of rebels who will do anything to leave their boring campus life and head down to Florida for spring break.


The genres
Teen-age rebels–drama; sex, drugs and rap; indie art film

The premise
Candy, Brit and Cotty will do anything to get away from boring safe college life and get to Florida, where so much fun is happening everyday during break-time. But they have no money. The three pull a robbery at a fast food restaurant, terrifying everyone—with water pistols. Faith isn’t involved and is less sure about going to Florida, but with the cash suddenly there, she agrees to go, too.

Everything is great at first. Life is a paradise during spring break, according to sweet Faith, who ignores the drugs and sex happening all around her and thinks only of the wonderfully easy camaraderie all college students feel during this time of revels. Then, the girls are busted for recreational drugs along with a bunch of college boys, with whom they were partying.

At their trial, Alien, a local drug dealer who met them at a party is intrigued by their plight, and decides to pay their bail. Three of them are thrilled but not Faith; she’s finds the tattoed drug dealing Alien to be terrifying. She leaves but the others stay with Alien—particularly Candy and Brit who begin to develop a sexual relationship with him. Accompanied by Cotty, they go clubbing and run into “Big Arch,” an African American, who used to be Alien’s best friend in high school, but now is his mortal enemy, since both of them got into the drug game.

Cotty is shot—a flesh wound—when Alien and Big Arch confront each other while driving on one of Florida’s endless existential roads. She departs but Candy and Brit are totally into Alien’s life by this point.

Spring break is over. Cotty and Faith are back in school but Candy and Brit decide to go with Alien on a fateful trip to take on Big Arch and his gang. Who will win?

The performances
James Franco is ridiculously talented. A month ago, he was Oz in a Disney film; now he’s a drug dealer for Harmony Korine. Franco may not be a Method Actor—that training doesn’t really exist anymore—but he certainly gets into his characters. The mumbling, cursing, Alien is miles away from the diction and style of Oz; that’s a testament to the fine abilities of James Franco.

Selena Gomez has an awful role: she plays the good girl in a Harmony Korine film. But Gomez, whom I’ve never seen before (true confession!), is full value in the part. You like her and understand her reasons for leaving Florida (and Alien, who looks as if he’d like to have her for breakfast). Gomez has charisma. Where she will go from this film, I have no idea. But she’s fine as Faith.

Korine, who did many things very well, seemed incapable of distinguishing Brit from Candy. They’re interchangeable bottle blondes on the run. Something should have been done to give Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson more to do. Or at least to set each other apart.

The creator
Harmony Korine, who scripted Larry Clark’s notorious Kids, an AIDS melodrama set among adolescents in New York in the ‘90s, has always had a way of describing anarchical youths on the run. He’s at it again with Spring Breakers, a film that celebrates the wild rebelliousness and vivid sensuality of young people today.

Although he wasn’t able to truly differentiate his female stars apart from Selena Gomez’ Faith, Korine remains a stylish director. While the film does have a plot, what makes Spring Breakers remarkable is Korine’s ability to evoke scenes in a dream-like fashion. Like Terence Malick, he is less interested in character and plot than he is in revling in the moment through music and camerawork. Both directors use voice-over to explain what’s happening in their films; they’re poets of the screen, not prose writers, and their strengths are similar—above all, they want to immerse the viewer in the pleasure of the moment.

The skinny
Is Spring Breakers a success? Aesthetically, yes. Harmony Korine has made a film that may actually acquire a viewership beyond members of the avant-garde. Will many audience members be disappointed? Well, yes, if they come expecting to see a very sexy, “B” movie, with lots of plot and character. Spring Breakers is that rarity, an American genre film that is made by an artist. This film is the spiritual grandchild of Nick Ray’s Rebel without a Cause. Like its precursor, it’s worth seeing for its crazy aesthetics, not its insights into the psychology of the young.

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