Spring Breakers was undoubtedly the most heavily anticipated film of this year’s SXSW festival, with a combination of the teenage admirers of Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens for once uniting with lovers of director Harmony Korine (Gummo, writer on Kids).
The film’s opening will likely divide viewers, with disorientating cuts meaning one is never quite sure where it begins its story, cutting between scenes of classroom boredom and wanton drinking and drug taking the next.
Eventually through these hazy scenes we learn that Faith (Gomez) is a religious but bored student who aims to join her friends, the wild Cotty (Rachel Korine), Candy (Hudgens) and Brit (Benson). He latter three realise they don’t have enough money to head to Miami for Spring Break and so stage an audacious armed robbery to grab the cash they need.
Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson in Spring Breakers (Photo: Universal)
All this occurs in a blur of music by Cliff Martinez and electronic superstar Skrillex, when they head down to party on Spring Break things go up a notch, with the girls indulging in wild partying, drug taking and drinking.Caught by the police they find a holiday they never wanted to end could end in disaster.
Enter rapper, philosopher, gangster and Britney Spears fan Alien (James Franco), who bails the girls out and takes them into his life of guns, glamour and rooms full of “his S**t”, dutifully shown to the girls in a hilarious scene that sees Franco really let loose as an utterly absurd character.
The juxtaposition of the scenes from the most gratuitously sex driven 90s music video and Korine’s more arty sensibilities is what makes the film interesting; and like the girls trying to keep the Spring Break show on the road, there’s a sense that its constantly teetering on the edge of ridiculousness without falling off.
However it’s when Franco enters that things really take-off; the character of Alien and his relationship with the girls, who become a pink balaclava and bikini clad band of outlaws is so strange, funny, and yes despite the sex and visually exploitative style touching.
In particular one scene in which Alien performs a piano ballad version of Britney Spears’ Everytime while the girls dance, rob and party, is so scene chewingly bonkers that it’s likely to be one of the funniest things in cinema this year.
There are a couple of problems with the film; firstly in its first half the boredom of college life isn’t so much subtly outlined as bashed into shape with a hammer (not unlike the girls’ preferred robbery method), with Spring Breakers perhaps overplaying its hand.
Secondly there are anticlimactic moments; the constant cutting between various different moments in the girls’ story makes the film feel more like an extended music video at times than a genuine narrative piece of cinema, meaning that scenes which should frighten or shock blur into the milleu of the movie.
This said though there’s a lot to like about Spring Breakers; though Korine’s style can be difficult to get to grips with, and could alienate its young stars’ fanbase, at other times its spell-binding, funny and poetic.
Spring Breakers won’t be for everyone, and does portray an area of American life that usually has one bashing one’s head on the table at the words “Spring Break” (said whooping usually in conjunction with the word “y’all”), but this strange, ever so slightly mad film is certainly intriguing.