Film review – Spring Breakers

Director Harmony Korine bottles an American phenomenon for the big screen in a wild story of four ladies who would probably put the Pussycat Dolls in hospital.

Easter is the spring break in the US, which for most college kids means a trip to Florida to get drunk, high and laid – a welcome escape from their stultifying college lives. Four female students have not been able to raise the money to go, and so wander empty hallways, literally climbing the walls with excess energy and boredom. Cotty (Rachel Korine, Harmony’s other half), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) hatch a plot to get them to the action, drawing in church-going good girl, Faith (Selena Gomez) for a hot time in the sunshine state.

Does this film want to show you something, or is it just a wet ‘n’ wild ride like spring break itself? There is something interesting in the way the girls become these cartoon-like bikinied gangsters. The first job with a water pistol is the kindergarten for what is to come. These privileged, well-educated university students speak to each other in faux gangster lingua, lines drawn from movies and video games, mocking each playfully as “bitches” but ultimately bonded by close and respectful friendships.  Their performances are naturalistic and convincing at this point and it’s clear that of the former Disney moppets, Hudgens metaphorically burns her bra and her mouse ears, clearly having a good old time of it.

They hit the spring break scene in Florida, have a mild but jarring brush with the law, then meet Alien. An almost unrecognisable James Franco, Alien is a white, bling-laden rapper and wannabe badass who is the epitome of the “gangsta” cliché; ostentatious jewellery on his knuckles and teeth, big shiny semi-automatic pistols and a sports car with spinning rims that belong in Chris Rock’s stand-up routine.

Compare him to the established gangsters who drive a sensible Lambo (I use that term loosely), but also deliver comedy lines such as “He’s [Alien] taking the money from our babies mouths. He’s starving our babies,” while sitting in a massive mansion with a Flymo-quantity of weed piled on the coffee table (I’m sure Korine’s having a laugh at their expense). Alien’s all show, a big kid out of his depth with the big boys. He trampolines on his bed as he seduces the girls with bigger guns and more money – until they start to play with this newly bestowed power. They’ll soon graduate his school and go beyond him.

Spring Breakers is a curiosity, but ultimately is a victim of its own publicity. It doesn’t shock or provoke as expected because the crimes committed by the girls are not based in reality: it’s a neon, cartoon world of violence and fetishised female bodies from the pages of a graphic novel. There’s something of female empowerment here, sexually and socially, but it’s taken to the nth degree, and Korine’s lingering voyeurism undoes it’s legitamacy. Who knows though, maybe time will class this as a classic exploitation flick of interest.

The film has flash and style, but stock footage repeated throughout makes it feel padded out and a little wearing. It’s more atmosphere than plot – a springbreak on acid.

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