Spring Break Never Flew So High
What do you get when you throw Disney girls Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Benson into a wild artistic concoction from avant-garde filmmaker Harmony Korine that includes major roles played by both his wife Rachel and top tier superstar James Franco wearing a rapper’s grill in his mouth? The answer is “Spring Breakers” – maybe our generation’s “Easy Rider,” maybe our generation’s theatrical version of “Girls Gone Wild,” maybe something that may come off to pretentious people as a superficial piece of trash. Whatever it is, and whatever it turns to be for the coming generations, this is undoubtedly the wildest movie that has hit theaters in a long, long time.
Korine, whose audacious punk films have included the not-so-accessible “Gummo,” “Julien Donkey-Boy,” and most recently 2010’s “Trash Humpers,” has certainly never made something more exoteric to mainstream audiences. The general public did, after all, misconceive “Kids” (which he wrote the script for) as a documentary-style film that told the truth about what happens to unsupervised kids on the Big Apple streets. They were completely wrong. Korine’s narratives are continuously over-the-top, often far past the point of believable. He thrives on taking audiences to a level of distorted fantasy previously unimaginable to any normal human being. And for the first time ever, Harmony’s movie actually might find a large audience, considering it is geared towards anyone and everyone who has either enjoyed or dreamed of the idea of enjoying the most unrestrained pleasures that come with partying on spring break.
After a group of friends – Brit, Candy, Cotty, and Faith played by Hudgens, Gomez, Benson and Rachel Korine (the “who’s who” here doesn’t really matter) – are left alone at their college campus while all of their compadres are out partying on spring break, they conclude that their best way to get to the unadulterated paradise themselves is by robbing a restaurant with a squirt gun and a rubber hammer. “Pretend like it’s a video game” they say to each other. After completing the robbery, they get to the beach and it’s just as rowdy as they expected. Drugs, booze, anything-goes sex, and a wild crowd of scantily clothed college coeds await them – along with a stop in jail for throwing a rager in their hotel room. Luckily, they learn that they have a guardian angel – a local rapper/hustler named Alien.
But Alien isn’t a normal rapper – he’s from another planet, as is the actor who plays his character: Mr. James Franco. Franco spent a significant amount of time with real life rapper Dangerruss to imitate his character and emulate his ridiculousness, and in terms of method acting performances this really ranks up there with the best of the best.
The true high point of “Spring Breakers” comes when Alien is in his bedroom, showcasing his illegal items including guns, money, drugs, and nunchucks – “Look at my sheyt! I’m a gangsta!” he screams while joyfully revealing his tangible goods. “They should call me ‘Money’ ‘cause I’m made of money!” he says as he smiles, showing his shiny grill in his mouth and toking blunt.
As said before, the names of the actresses playing the girls aren’t all that important to match up – except for Selena Gomez’s character Faith. The ultra-demented Korine competently examines the idea of Catholic guilt– the idea of straying away from your stern faiths and beliefs to give into your unconscious dark side – vicariously through Faith. He also, more importantly, examines the idea of growing up as it applies to sexually repressed college kids who have little to no idea of what growing up actually is. “Spring break forever,” they repeat. “I never want to go back to school,” they say. The girls think that they’ve graduated from the boring, financially distressed college life to the enthralling, fiscally flourishing real world – but all they’ve done is enter a surreal lifestyle that they aren’t capable of living in.
The editing is much like a film by Jean-Luc Godard; many of the shots of the beach are intent on displaying natural beauty similar to works from Terrance Malick; the dark content is displayed cheerfully almost like Sofia Coppola’s flicks. Korine borrows an infinite amount of tools and tricks from all the best, but where he really shines is by bringing out staggering performances from his actors and actresses. Korine gets the girls to, instead of follow a script and recite stereotypical lines of dialogue, crazily act out on what they’ve been forbidden from exposing under Disney’s tight contracts. Selena is perfect. Vanessa and Ashley are equally perfect and a little bit more deranged. And Harmony’s 26 year-old wife Rachel’s feet perfectly fill the shoes of perhaps the most psychotic of all the girls.
And the soundtrack, my dear lord, the “Spring Breakers” soundtrack pulsates throughout your body harmoniously and fills your mind with ecstasy when combined with the phony exquisiteness of the neon-infused cinematography. For EDM fans out there (especially those who think Skrillex is just a guy who gets onstage and pushes buttons, or those who really truly love his music), this soundtrack marks the best use of dubstep seen yet theatrically.
Combine Skrillex’s hardcore electronic punk music with Cliff Martinez’s entrancing compositions and throw in a few incomprehensible raps from Gucci Mane (who also acts in a major role) and Waka Flocka Flame and you have something that will forever be lodged in your car’s CD player.
What’s most intriguing about “Spring Breakers” isn’t its star-filled cast, its operatic use of Britney Spears’ music, or its neon-noir style – rather, it’s the fact that that one can simultaneously burst out laughing or become utterly shocked during any magic moment in the film. The events of James Franco giving oral pleasure to loaded weapons (yes, weapons), Rachel Korine vomiting up alcohol while using a beer funnel, and Vanessa Hudgens doing such an absurd amount of drugs that you wonder how her character’s even coherent are all delightfully psychotic moments, but they’re also undoubtedly dark and cataclysmic as well.
The idea of a Baby Boomer enjoying this loopy, lurid and irresistibly mesmerizing psychotic masterpiece might not seem believable, but that’s because “Spring Breakers” is the twisted fantasy specifically geared for children who grew up in the 90s singing along with Catholic girl Britney Spears’ dying-to-be-unclothed music videos. With that being said, it is my reason for comparison between this and Dennis Hopper’s “Easy Rider” – this will appeal to the under-30s who grew up watching MTV and tried to steal their parents’ credit cards to order VHS tapes of “Girls Gone Wild” as Hopper’s masterpiece appealed to anti-government hippies who wanted to find the American dream.
Does “Spring Breakers” have any weaknesses? Not really, unless you can’t fathom the idea of seeing vices and crimes stylized in a 94-minute movie that probably doesn’t contain any more than 15 minutes of plot. Either way, the content here is bound to create a bold division between lovers and haters – and I couldn’t possibly lean any more on the loving side.