Movie Review: Spring Breakers

By Stephen Rebello

<p>Punky provocateur director Harmony Korine is up to all sorts of dirty, silly, stylish finger-pointing and head-shaking with Spring Breakers.<br></p>

Director: Harmony Korine  MPAA Rating: R  Studio: Muse Productions, Division Films Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco

Punky provocateur director Harmony Korine is up to all sorts of dirty, silly, stylish finger-pointing and head-shaking with Spring Breakers, his fifth “Hey, look at me, I’m badass” pipe bomb of a movie. In Korine’s first “mainstream” flick, bored silly, blank-eyed college girls gone wild (played by Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine as well as former Disney nymphets Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens) stage an armed robbery at the local fried chicken shack sporting pastel ski masks, plastic guns and hammers to stake themselves to the annual semester break beach bacchanals in Tampa. Yells Hudgens, “Give me your motherfucking money or I’m going to shoot your fucking brains out!” Oh, snap. Take that, Disney corporate!

For a while, once our cutie coeds hit the beach, it’s all bikinis, bared breasts, beer busts and coke binges, but we know Korine plans to lower the boom, what with his time-shifting structure, ominous camera pans, Day-Glo colors and slo-mo overdose, all of which he appears to believe reek of “Oh, my gosh, we’re going to hell in a handbasket” Major Statement when they actually reek of Film School 101. There’s some funny, fantastic stuff in the movie—there’s the trippy, hypnotic Benoît Debie cinematography, not to mention the pulsating, trancelike music score by EDM artist Skrillex and Cliff Martinez.

As for those constant gunshot sounds that interrupt the beats? Roaring clichés. Despite the edgy trappings, the whole movie adds up to little more than an amped-up ’60s good-girls-go-bad flick. It’s like Where the Boys Are meets Valley of the Dolls, and, like those now-camp classics, their heroines’ pursuit of the good life, freedom, good times and a roll in the hay leads them straight to a narcissistic, untrustworthy dog. Enter James Franco as the drug and arms dealing “Alien,” who bails out the young women when they’ve been busted for partying like it’s 1999.

Franco is fantastic as a moneyed, bat-shit crazy moron who idolizes Scarface, has delusional fantasies of himself as a poet and musician and, in one of the flick’s best and funniest scenes, tickles the ivories on a white piano, gargles “Everytime” by Britney Spears and sets all four girls to spinning and whirling while they’re toting AK-47s. Franco, adorned with cornrows, ink and a rapper’s metallic grill, is stupendous casting. He’s skeevy, charismatic, bat-shit crazy and throws out hilarious, destined-to-be-quoted-to-death dialogue. Like much of the movie, Franco is showy and self-referential, but when he’s lolling around in his bong and weapon-packed waterside pad, greedily sucking on a gun barrel while playing master and servant games with his new bitches, try and take your eyes off him.

His female costars are blonde, ultra white-toothed purty little things, for certain, but they’re such ciphers that they’re practically interchangeable. The exception is dark-haired Gomez, who plays a religious believer named, of course, Faith, a person with a past and a future. She, along with Franco in a scorching performance, makes Spring Breakers worth the trip.


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