Spring Breakers | Movie review
Harmony Korine crafts a vacation movie for the ages.
Watching the opening montage of barely-legals chugging beer, fellating Popsicles and tit-flashing for the camera, you’d be forgiven for thinking Spring Breakers is a wallow in grotesquerie—another empty provocation from the maker of Gummo and julien donkey-boy. But Harmony Korine’s first tiptoe into mainstream waters, about vacationing students in way over their heads, is not just a step forward. It’s a vision: a fever dream of sun-dappled debauchery that doubles as a thriller-satire on the allure of excess. (Characters repeatedly invoke national ideals: “That’s the fuckin’ American dream, y’all.” “I’m gonna be the best that I can be.”) As images of bikini-clad kids partying in hotels dissolve into one another, the movie demands viewers surrender to total immersion.
In context, nothing that happens seems implausible. Bummed to learn they don’t have enough money for their planned spring binge, four Christian-college coeds rob a chicken shack. Already, Korine flirts with danger by casting Disney TV alums (Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens, joined by the filmmaker’s wife, Rachel Korine). As in Trash Humpers, there’s also a balls-out formal wit, down to the way the heist is seen in a long take from the getaway driver’s POV. Flush with cash, the quartet buses down to mingle with the inebriated masses in St. Petersburg, Florida. Legal troubles land them in the company of a gangster named Alien (a cornrowed, metal-teethed James Franco). If having fun equals being bad, then crime is only a logical step.
Typical of Korine, the chronology can be mildly elliptical and dialogue often consists of mantra-like repetitions. (Franco’s “look at my shit” monologue, in which he shows off his designer shorts and nunchucks, is already legendary.) But the gleeful sophomorism doesn’t overshadow an aesthetic triumph, whether it’s in Benoît Debie’s neon-lit views of the coast or a handstand motif as poetic as anything in next month’s Malick movie. Cliff Martinez and Skrillex’s hypnotic score is periodically punctuated by gunshots, keeping the threat of violence close. No movie in which Franco accompanies these masked, gun-toting costars in a poolside rendition of Britney Spears’s “Everytime” could be anything less than singularly strange.