Upon first inspection, there really was no reason for me to expect to enjoy Spring Breakers, especially considering I’m not big on filmmaker Harmony Korine, not enamored with the careers of any of the women in the films, find James Franco inconsistent at times, and can’t say I know who Skrillex is (outside of being what a friend of mine named his cat), but somehow I really liked this movie. Writer/director Korine has managed to wed his very offbeat sensibilities with an accessible story, resulting in what likely will be the most mainstream film he’ll ever make. It’s still very odd, but he struck gold with his casting. By getting the squeaky clean likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, and Ashley Benson together with Rachel Korine and of course the aforementioned Franco, there’s incredibly interesting work on display here, especially in the case of the former Oscar host in the cast. Much more than just a spring break exploitation film, and more than just a crime film, this is an odd hybrid work that mixes college coeds with guns and just saunters off to see what happens. This isn’t a perfect flick, but man oh man is it among the most purely entertaining things that I’ve seen all year so far.
For longtime friends Brit (Benson), Candy (Hudgens), Cotty (Korine) and Faith (Gomez), the thrills that college offers have grown stale and with spring break on hand, they refuse to just sit by in their dorms will those with more money go party down South. Almost on a whim, three of them rob a local restaurant and use the cash they stole to head down to Florida for some bikini clad fun in the sun. Brit, Candy, and Cotty are very much “bad girls”, while Faith is caught somewhere between the loyalty she shares with her friends and her more conservative lifestyles. When they get picked up by the cops for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a local lowlife named Alien (Franco) bails them out. He’s a rapper who also dabbles in drug dealing on the side, and his dangerous nature immediately is found appealing by everyone except Faith. She quickly sees where things are going, but the other three are down to get even badder than they already are. As they get in deeper and deeper, they find out about the enemies that Alien has and learn that when he talks about having “spring break forever”, he may mean it in a more morbid way than initially thought.
The gonzo performance delivered by James Franco may well be the best I’ve ever seen from him. He absolutely steals the show, and once he shows up about a third of the way through, you never want him to leave the screen. At one point, he serenades the girls on the piano while singing the Britney Spears song “Everytime” as the ladies dance with guns, this has reached cult and perhaps even iconic status. I was captivated by Franco, and frequently amused by him as well. He’s having an absolute ball delivering some of his ridiculous lines and it rubs off on you too. I feel far less strongly about Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Rachel Korine, but some of that has to do with just how interchangeable they’re meant to be. Gomez’s character is meant to be less unlikable and has her own identity some of the time, but the other three are almost the same person replicated. Two of them go farther down the rabbit hole than the other two, but they all do blend together. Mostly though, they just pale in comparison to Franco. The supporting cast also includes Gucci Mane, but Franco is really who grabs you and doesn’t let go.
For better or worse, Harmony Korine is really dedicated to the style of the flick. From shooting almost on the fly the spring break scenes to mixing in a score by Cliff Martinez with the work of Skrillex, Korine wants this to feel like a party gone wrong. It works really well during the first half, particularly with the initial Florida set scenes, but as the crime element begins to gain steam, the pacing slows down a bit and things get repetitive. I liked Korine’s direction more than this writing here, but it’s all done with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. I do applaud Korine for casting the film as he did, creating an interesting additional dynamic to the proceedings. A slightly better final act would have made this an instant cult classic to me, but I still think that’s where this flick is headed…
All in all, Spring Breakers is a heck of a lot of fun to watch and represents the closest thing we’ll likely ever get to an accessible Harmony Korine film. By casting the female roles against type, he added something special to the movie, plus just getting James Franco to go all out and steal the show. For Franco’s performance alone, I say this is one to see, but the product is well worth checking out. I’m curious to see if this winds up becoming a mainstream success or not, but either way it’s unlike almost anything else you’ll see in 2013. If that appeals to you, then you know you’re going to be in for a good time with this one…
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!
Tags: 2013 releases, Ashley Benson, Harmony Korine, James Franco, Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Spring Breakers, Vanessa Hudgens