Harmony Korine is celebrated for his surreal films based in enhanced realities. He is arguably one of the boldest filmmakers currently working and ‘Spring Breakers’ ,despite being his most mainstream work to date, certainly doesn’t disappoint. Spring Breakers is noticeably different to his past lo-fi provocations (eg Gummo, Trash Humpers). Fans of Korine’s work understand he is a creator of art films and his productions are not made to gratify all audiences. In some ways the trailer for the film is pretty misleading. It looks like it would follow a similar structure to Project X, but the nature of Korine’s non-linear approach to the narrative makes the viewer’s experience more of a vicarious candy coloured dream. Intoxicating visuals were to be expected considering Benoît Debie was the film’s cinematographer. His unique take on cinematography has transformed the look of many other notable works including Gaspar Noe’s ‘Enter the Void’ and ‘The Runaways’.
The film follows a quartet of college girls as they embark on drug fuelled hedonistic pursuits. The girls dream of leaving their boring hometown to ‘find themselves’ on an unforgettable holiday in Florida. Having saved up all year for their vacation they are disappointed when they fall short of the amount of money they need. Out of sheer desperation, they devise a plan to make up the total. Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson’s characters don pink Pussy Riot-esque balaclavas and arm themselves with water pistols and go on to rob a chicken shack. The girls ‘pretend it’s a video game’ and much like if it were a game of Grand Theft Auto, they get away scot free.
From this point onwards it’s an intoxicating neon blend of debauchery, bikini-clad girls and hustling. Korine stated that he did not want to work introspectively, which could explain why at times the characters seemed shallow and underdeveloped. They were more representations of ideas the director wanted to illustrate. The quartet ends up in jail after one of their drug fuelled parties. ‘Alien’, a local hustler portrayed by James Franco, posted their bail.
Faith, Selena Gomez’s role is crucial to the narrative of the film; as a practicing christian she is the first of the group to throw in the towel. After ‘Alien’ bails them out of jail, Faith begins to feel that something bad is going to happen, which is inevitable given the circumstances. Throughout the film you do have to wonder how her character really fits into the group of wild girls despite the fact they have supposedly been friends since kindergarden. Her phone calls to her grandmother are repeated during the film. She talks about the amazing people she’s met which is juxtaposed with insane party antics and sexually explicit scenes. For Faith, Spring Break was an opportunity to reinvent herself and rebel from the expectations set upon her as a result of her christian upbringing. When the casting for the movie was released Selena Gomez was by far the biggest surprise. Seeing the Disney channel princess drinking, smoking and getting put in jail will certainly change the public’s perception of the squeaky clean star. Gomez’s character was at the centre of the promotional campaign for the movie so when she left well before the major action of the film took place it was somewhat anti-climactic.
The remaining trio leave behind ‘Spring Break’ as they begin a dangerous flirtation with gangster culture. James Franco’s portrayal of Alien is incredible to watch. If I hadn’t been told it was him, I could have never guessed. This is not only due to his astounding physical transformation (Franco’s hair was cornrowed, he wore a grill throughout and was covered in tattoos) but also as a result of the charismatic yet sociopathic persona he embodied throughout the film. His sidekicks, the ATL twins were contacted by Korine after they jokingly said in an interview they wanted to have their own reality show. Korine wrote a part for them in the script after telling them not to do a reality show. The ATL twins are as bizarre and wild in reality as in the film and although their part in the movie was not a driving force. Their character really shone.
Spring Breakers is unlike anything Harmony Korine has made before but certainly makes for enjoyable viewing, however you decide to interpret it.