Spring Breakers is lurid, unpleasant and hollow, three adjectives that somehow become complimentary when thrown through Harmony Korine’s twisted-eye view of the vapid corruption of youth. If this is the writer of Kids bid for mainstream attention, the mainstream may have to watch through its fingers.
Candy, Faith, Brit and Cotty are desperate to make the pilgrimage down to the Florida Keys to join in the annual celebrations of thousands of like minded college students, as they drink, smoke and dance into oblivion in the hot and humid tip of America’s mainland. Finding themselves with barely enough money, they logically decide to rob the local Chicken Shack with sledgehammers and water pistols. However, after a few days of “spiritual” partying, they find themselves arrested and in prison. Then a mysterious local, calling himself Alien, bails them out and their downward spiral into the dark heart of America’s black market, economic structure begins. At this point Faith has had enough and leaves, the girls, bereft of their moral compass, find their descent complete and the endgame begins, in the form of a violent, slow motion, bikini clad shootout at a local drug-dealers opulent house.
The casting of sweet, television sensation Selena Gomez, some Disney princesses and Korine’s young bride as our four hedonism seekers works in much the same way as Verhoeven’s inspired decision to use plastic himbos and gleaming toothed soap stars to heighten the absurd fascism on display in Starship Troopers. It’s tempting to ask the question about whether these four actresses have already been corrupted by the almighty House of Mouse before Korine convinced them to do beer bongs, rob diners and fuck in swimming pools. Indeed, America’s current fallen angel, Britney Spears is referenced throughout, Alien sings “Everytime” on a baby grand by an outdoor pool as the girls request something sensitive from him. Her presence here is an effective and obvious metaphor, mirroring our four protagonists attempts at self-destruction.
James Franco deserves kudos (mad props?) simply for saying yes to the role of Alien, a corn-rowed, drug dealing rapper whose celebrations of excess for excesses sake are complimented and accelerated by the liquorice blunt permanently clenched between his gold plated teeth and the southern drawl of a snake-oiler. He gets his moment in the sun during a brilliantly, low level, capitalist, “look at all my shit” speech. He talks the girls through his “dark tanning oil”, his “shorts in every colour”, his “two types of Calvin Klein, wear ’em both at once, smell nice” and all his drugs, weapons and “Franklin’s”. It’s a speech highly reminiscent of Hudson’s “sharp sticks” speech in the director’s cut of Aliens. Franco pulls it off laconically, almost breaking character and sniggering at the bare-faced ridiculousness of what he is being paid to say. “Look at my blue Kool-Aid…” he smirks, loud and proud.
The pounding, distorted score by Cliff Martinez (Requiem for a Dream, Solaris) and Skrillex (assorted “club-bangers”, EBFS is reliably informed by a passing young person) screeches along, heightening each drugged out, party scene. The colour palette on display is turned up to about a million, Korine calls the effect “skittles” and he isn’t lying, even the font for the credits makes the eyeballs ache. There is an Enter the Void sense of nihilism to the ebb and drift of most scenes, so it’s no surprise that Korine chose Gaspar Noe’s DoP, Benoit Debie, to provide his visuals. An excellent, one take shot of a car crawling round a diner as we see the robbery taking place within through each window is particularly noteworthy. the other obvious visual reference points are MTV, particularly Jersey (or Geordie) Shore, shows that actively encourage their “real” people to behave like airhead hedonists, safe in the false knowledge that youth is immortal and infinite. However, like Icarus before them, when our girls get closer to danger (and therefore, reality) in the form of Alien and his feud with former friend, Archie (Gucci Mane, a rapper, Wikipedia this time), the film’s visual style changes once again, to that last bastion of cinema verite, internet pornography. Korine admits to having collected images from spring break porno sites, so the appearance of harsh lighting, grim faced men surrounding vulnerable women has a creepy frame of reference. The script is loose, almost Malick like, with lines repeated over and over and not lip synched for effect. Alien breathes “spring break” again and again in voiceover like a mantra for a religion only he is privy to.
In the end, Spring Breakers purposely drowns in its own vulgarity, with its endless shots of beer soaked breasts and glassy-eyed revellers, operating on autopilot, getting fucked up and fucking for the sake of it, or because everyone else is doing it. Korine has crafted a morally moribund piece, without the answers to the anachronisms on display. Whether it’s a good film or not is hard to say, it’s certainly grotesque and that may be the real point.