Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers was cleverly advertised with the promise of former tween favourites Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez getting wild. Using the exploitation elements of the story to draw in a young, male audience it proved a box office success taking over $30m worldwide from a small budget of $5m.
In small-town America a group of four college friends, Faith (Gomez), Candy (Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Brittany (Ashley Benson) are saving to get out of town from a spring break celebration. Lacking the necessary funds to afford their trip, three of the girls successfully hold-up a diner for the missing money. While enjoying their holiday, the girls are arrested at a party involving drugs and are bailed out by the mysterious gangster rapper Alien (James Franco) who looks to recruit them into his gang.
To say that Spring Breakers is Korine’s best work to date is a fair assessement. To say that it is anything other than a decent, but unspectacular exploitation drama would be equally as accurate. Working from a paper-thin plot with some stilted dialogue, Spring Breakers is an incredibly melancholy look at teenage-to-young-adult life that relies on the soundtrack, the visual flair of the director and the titillating nature of the subject matter. Working from this starting point, there is as much to admire as there is to condemn, leaving an uneven and frustrating final product.
So desperate is Korine to portray a view of the lifestyles of young people independent of judgement that the film never really offers you any point or assessment of events. This is not a problem in and of itself, but if you’re going to present such an unlikable collection of characters who are as morally bankrupt as they are attractive, then there should really be a point. If it’s just a case of presenting some scenes of characters with no goal then there needs to be a strong script behind the film to engage with, which there simply isn’t. In fact Hudgens and Bensen are so two-dimensional that you can’t even pick out a characteristic for either of them other than, ‘they’re not very nice.’
Much of the promise of the film relied on the chance to see some of Disney’s former employees cutting loose and transitioning into adulthood via exploitation, but the scenes involving the main female characters as so tame and not at all shocking that it doesn’t even leave a negative impact. Luckily Korine is always on hand to present a lascivious, slow motion shot of an extra jumping up and down in a bikini to remind you that the film is ˜edgy.’
The visuals are rather stunning in presentation with neon-sweet colours drenching much of the action. There is a liberal use of slow-motion and motion blur which gives the impression of a drunken dream-like state throughout, which fits the subject. In fact the standout scene involves a split-shot between Franco’s excellent Alien serenading his new accomplices, while showing a raid involving the gang over which Britney Spears’ ballad ˜Everytime’ plays. It’s as barmy a scene as you’re likely to see in any film this year and provides one of the films only laughs.
So with the disappointment of the tone and pacing out of the way, Spring Breakers provides an interesting if flawed exploitation drama. Set to a pounding dub-step soundtrack by Skrillex, it promises the deflowering of some of Disney’s most prominent female characters of recent years, but never quite pulls the trigger. It’s a mess, but not an altogether meaningless one and while Korine may be shooting to be Generation X’s answer to Russ Meyer, what he actually hits is ˜Disney does exploitation.’