Girls Gone Wild – Spring Breakers

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th September 2013.

The notion of spring break is a little alien to those of us residing in the southern hemisphere. With our seasons out of sync, the only references we have are teen movies and Girls Gone Wild videos. Controversial director Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers does little to dispel the myth and will split audiences with its confronting mix of alcohol, drugs, bikinis and bad behaviour. For the record, I liked it, but you have been warned.

The film opens with footage of students partying on the beach. The booze is flowing freely. The boys stand around leering at the nubile girls as they become even more nubile. Everyone is having a great time, except the audience. With crotch shots that linger just a second too long, Korine is deliberately making you uncomfortable. There’s a dark side to this frivolity.

We soon meet our spring breakers. Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Faith (Selena Gomez) are desperate to escape the humdrum of their student lives. Unable to afford a spring break vacation, the girls rob a local diner and soon find themselves partying it up in what can only be described as a Miley Cyrus music video.

At first it’s all fun and games but eventually their actions start to have consequences. Arrested for drug possession, the girls come under the influence of Alien (an almost unrecognisable James Franco). The cashed up drug dealer is all grills and guns, and leads the girls even further down the rabbit hole.

Spring Breakers has the distinction of featuring two ex-Disney stars in their first adult breakout roles. Be prepared to be “shocked” by scenes of Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) and Hudgens (High School Musical) smoking bongs, swearing and wearing bikinis. Don’t let the DVD cover fool you though. Rachel Korine, married to the director since 2007, does all of the heavy lifting, nudity-wise.

In fact, Gomez only appears in the first half of the movie. Her character, however, is easily the most interesting of the quartet. Her Faith, torn between religious beliefs and loyalty to her friends, resonates on the screen. The other three, unfortunately, fare less well and are indistinguishable from each other, besides the colour of their swimwear.

James Franco, recently the subject of a hilarious Comedy Central roast, steals the show and almost makes amends for his dull turn this year in the even duller Oz the Great and Powerful. His Alien is all bravado and southern accent. A memorable scene features Franco performing Britney Spears’ Everytime on his poolside baby grand piano (as you do).

Spring Breakers is told in an unusual format. Although ultimately a linear narrative, Korine adopts a montage style, continually changing locations. Occasionally, we are given a glimpse of a future development which doesn’t make sense until later in the film.  This surreal format reinforces how far from reality the world of spring break is for our protagonists.

Korine divided audiences back in 1995 as the screenwriter for Larry Clark’s challenging Kids (for the record, I hated it). Now in the director’s chair with Spring Breakers, Korine once again proves a magnet for controversy. This time, however, he has the story and the storytelling chops to pull off a rewarding film for some. Love it or hate it, Spring Breakers will provoke a reaction.

Spring Breakers is now available on DVD, blu-ray and digital download.

Published in: on September 17, 2013 at 19:17  Leave a Comment  
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