Directed by Harmony Korine
Starring James Franco, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine and Selena Gomez
As an artistic endeavor, Spring Breakers has the depth of a comb-over and the appeal of a Girls Gone Wild DVD rendered in slow motion. That is to say, it could be worse. Unfortunately for filmmaker Harmony Korine, no-one cued him in to the fact that his audience, even a predominantly male audience, can only ogle at bobbling breasts and sun-scorched beaches for so long before they start to remember that they're in a movie theater to see an actual film. An actual film being something this experimental montage doesn't ever add up to.
Korine quickly lathers on a wallpaper of foreshadow as we meet four college chicks whose purposed bone-deep friendship seems impossible or at least highly unlikely. As Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Brit (Ashley Benson) doddle pictures of dongs in their dimly lit lecture, Cottie (Rachel Korine who is actually the wife of director Harmony) slugs down bong rips and the shamelessly named Faith (Disney's Selena Gomez) half-heartedly attends a youth church group. Faith's church friends pound home the fact that the other girls are bad news but the message only partially comes across to the thick-headed do-gooder.
In order to finance their trip to an unnamed but stereotypical Spring Break locale, Candy and Brit talk Cottie into stealing her professor's car so that they can rob a restaurant. Bing, bang, boom, they grab the cash, scoop up Faith and make off to Florida. Instead of trying to flesh out the mental states of these wild childs or attempt to rationalize the unexplained addition of Faith, a character who clearly wouldn't be morally on board with these highly illegal endeavors, Korine glosses over the affair with a montage of boobies. And while the hypnotic barrage of slow motion bouncing breasts and brain-blistering dubstep tunes almost tricked us into forgetting that we are supposed to be watching a narrative with plot and character develop, he doesn't quite get away with it this time. Nice try but no dice.
Interspliced between sun-baked shots of partially nude and, of course, fully nude people fist bumping, water bouncing, doing all imaginable kinds of hooking up and executing copious bong rips and lines of blow, is some sembleance of the girls "discovering themselves" or at least that's what they say to their mommies when they call home to gloat...I mean report in. Again, we don't see them doing any kind of soul searching out here, just a lot of good old fashion partying like a rock star. We may be told that there is something more going on with these girls but there's no evidence of that onscreen.
Finally, a flicker of thesbianic hope enters the equation when the girls wind up in jail for partying way too hard and are serendipitously bailed out by a gold-plate toothed James Franco, who simply goes by the name Alien. Flunky-rapper by day and drug-kingpin by night, Franco immediately illuminates the screen with his G-diction and farcical little characer bits, offering a much needed lump of levity and opening up the narrative to new possibilities. Unfortunately, Korine squanders the opportunities afforded him by Franco and simply allows the film to flounder in a new wading pool of mediocrity.
It's not hard to miss the cautionary warning mixed up in their affair about the dangers of drugs, sex and power but it's carried out with the subtly of a pink elephant. It gets to the point where the pitiable well of scripted narrative runs dry so the few clunky through lines peppered through Spring Breakers are repeated again and again, broadcasting an impractically tone-deafness on the part of Korine to the ridiculous redundancies scattered throughout the film that babble on and on like a broken record.
While it might not be fair to point the finger exclusively at Korine, it's just hard to swallow that this film was actually edited by an actual editor. At it's core, there stands a powerful message about the captivating sway of the unorthodox, the hypnotic descent and the fierce disillusionment of reality but it's totally let down by a sweltering decrescendo in momentum and just plain dumb film-making. Things get wild and things get racy when you're under the spell of a neon-streaked Spring Break rave but when you're not jammed full of ecstasy, it's fairly easy to see the abundantly uninteresting attendees and the seams come melting apart.
In Spring Breakers defense, it's not all bad. I didn't hate the nudity, in fact, I rather liked it but that seductive allure is hardly an excuse for the badly bandaged final product this movie turned out to be. Also on the plus side, we can add in Franco and a memorably avante garde shoot out but that's about it. If some well written scribe had sat down and churned out about 20-30 more pages to tack into the script or made the executive decision to turn this helplessly wandering narrative into a short film, I'm sure it would have been a lot more successful. Instead, Korine overextends himself again and again, winding up with an undeniably titillating film characterized by shallow character development, endless montages and the worst editing this side of Bollywood.