James Franco plays Britney Spears’ “Everytime” on a white baby grand piano by the waterfront as three half-naked, balaclava-clad girls form a daisy chain of machine guns and sing along.
A montage of robberies and assaults flash up on screen in time to the soft, sweet music.
Absurd as it may sound, this is an actual scene from Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. When you hear the phrase ‘Spring Break,’ you automatically picture debauchery in all its glorious forms- drinking, drugs, and the frequent and promiscuous exchange of bodily fluids. This movie has all of those things. Plus guns, gangsters and grills.
In a genius move, Korine has cast former teen stars to feature in his film, highlighting the complete lack of innocence the girls possess, as well as the disintegration of the once great American Dream.
Realising they haven’t nearly enough cash to fund their dream of going to Spring Break, college students Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) rob a chicken shop with squirt guns and a hammer. Stealing enough money for a wild time in Florida, they bring their Christian friend Faith (Selena Gomez) along for the ride.
After an alcohol, nudity and drug-fuelled week, the girls are arrested for narcotics possession. Local rapper Alien (an impeccably sleazy James Franco) bails the girls out, and brings them back to his compound. The still untarnished Faith wants out, and so returns home on a bus, leaving the other three girls to participate in Alien’s hijinxs.
As the film rolls on, the girls sink deeper and deeper into the quagmire of Alien’s gangster lifestyle- abusing his drugs and being his sidekicks as he perpetrates various crimes.
Things turn ugly when Alien’s rival, Big Arch begins a turf war and Cotty, Candy and Brit get ever more caught up in the gangster lifestyle.
For anyone who is aware of Korine’s past work (most notably 90′s cult classic, Kids) this will not be half as shocking as it will be for those expecting a frat movie with beer and babes. This film is utterly compelling, and will suck you in until you forget where you are, who you are, and every ethical value you have ever held dear. The editing is sublime and makes the film insistently watchable. Half repulsed, half intrigued you won’t be able to draw your attention from the screen. A constant loop of Franco sleazing out the words “Spring Break ya’ll” creates a hypnotic effect, filling your brain with the film and the film only.
Hudgens, Benson, Gomez and Korine play their parts perfectly, and Spring Breakers marks the end of their age of innocence. While there is never-ending nudity, it is never intended to be titillating. Although it’s been said a thousand times, the nakedness serves a purpose, and does it well.
In equal parts shocking and fascinating, Spring Breakers is not going to be to everyone’s taste. It goes hard, it goes fast and there is no redemption. But I’m going to go ahead and say it; this is probably one of my favourite films so far this year.
Directed by: Harmony Korine
Written by: Harmony Korine
Cast: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashely Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco.
Released by: A24