Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez
Running time: 94 minutes
Four college girls rob a diner in order to fund their trip to Florida for spring break. After being thrown in jail for drug use, they’re bailed out by a mysterious player named Alien, and as he tries to lure them into his world, one of the girls wants to break free.
Spring Breakers is a strange one. I was afraid that it would just be a shallow, lurid, throwaway bit of trash with no real substance or merit, and the opening sequence didn’t do much to make me think otherwise. We begin with a series of slow-mo shots of naked guys and girls (mainly girls) strutting and shaking their beer-drenched stuff in front of the lens to a dance-y, drum n’ bass soundtrack (which I can’t say I was overly fond of but I suppose it fits the subject matter). I thought my apprehensions had come true and I was going to have to endure an hour and a half of voyeuristic nonsense, but then, suddenly, the film moves into much different territory. As it begins to introduce our young female protagonists, it transcends into a much different experience that leads us to think that there may actually be something of value here.
The girls – Candy, Brit, Cotty and Faith – played by Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Selena Gomez respectively make for an interesting group dynamic. We have Cotty, seemingly the wildest of the bunch but whom quite possibly has the most fragile core; Candy and Brit, practically sisters who are equally wild and grow more and more out of control as the film wears on; and finally Faith, the more reserved and shy of the lot, and also the real standout. Much to my surprise, Gomez actually gives quite a deep performance as a church-going ‘good girl’ being dragged between two radically different lifestyles. Her character has by far the most development, and consequently carries the most interest. It’s her who provides the film with a contrasting and contemplating leg to stand on.
The DoP probably had a great time
Then in steps an almost unrecognizable James Franco as the enigmatic arms-dealer/rapper Alien. With dreadlocks, gold teeth and a ‘gangsta’ accent, he’s whole worlds away from the giggly fuzziness he’s currently bringing to Oz in Sam Raimi’s fantasy adventure. Worlds away, but equally as good. He’s playing an immensely hard-to-like character with despicable ideals and a seedy way of life; he admits at one point that his goal in life is “to be the bad guy”. He brags about his money, shows off his guns, lies, cheats and steals, and if all of that’s not enough, he tries to lure four young and (to his knowledge) innocent girls into his dangerous world. He does all of these things, and we know he’s a nasty, dangerous person, yet there’s still an edge to him that we like, because of Franco’s performance. Classic anti-hero type stuff – if he was indeed even supposed to be half a hero.
There’s more substance to this than first appears. I didn’t love it, or even feel particularly moved in any way, but I did find it interesting and fairly gripping throughout.