The most recent step in ‘Kids’ writer Harmony Korine’s controversial career, the dreamlike, club music-fuelled neon Disney princess exploitation is a flawed, but interesting approach to freedom and crime, led by one of the best James Franco performances. ‘Spring Breakers’ is sexy, intense, absorbing – however, still mediocre. MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS
In order to collect enough money to go on a spring break trip to Florida, four college friends (played by Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez and the director’s wife Rachel Korine) commit armed robbery at a restaurant. Faith (Gomez), part of a religious group is confused by the other ‘dangerous’ girls’ behaviour but decides to overlook their different values. After attending several beach and house parties and being arrested by the police at a wilder party they are bailed out by Florida rapper and gangster Alien (Franco) who convinces the girls to stay with him. Florida and Alien both embody their idea of freedom. The man, having been able to become wealthy through drug and firearm trading, seems confident and satisfied – he becomes a spiritual leader for the girls, except for Faith (a name with double meaning), who feels uncomfortable and decides to go home. As rival gangster Big Arch (rapper Gucci Mane) is introduced, Cotty (Korine) is shot during a drive-by shooting, and feeling traumatised she leaves too. Alien and the two remaining girls prepare to take vengeance – however, as they approach Big Arch’s mansion, Alien is immediately shot to death by a bodyguard. After the two girls manage to kill every gang member, they drive home, their journey ends.
While Faith and Cotty end up escaping their adventure, for the other two girls, Brittany (Benson) and Candy (Hudgens) the spring break serves as a spiritual journey in this experimental, postmodern coming-of-age story. With the help of the gangster they experience their sensations, sexuality, freedom. Their dream is not necessarily the life of crime or money and power – it is all about the adventure itself. After Alien’s death they they kiss his body goodbye and call their parents promising to work harder – they are ready to return to become responsible ‘adults’ after they have savoured the freedom of youth.
Unfortunately, the concept of ‘Spring Breakers’ is lost in its fragmented visual language. The scenes of James Franco fellating two handguns, the threesome intercourse in the gangster’s swimming pool or the girls dancing with pink masks on, holding machine guns around Alien playing the piano and singing ‘Everytime’ by Britney Spears can considered to be either weirdly entertaining or comical and awkward. Its pop soundtrack, party footage cutaways and non-chronological, repetitive narrative (even though Franco’s haunting ‘Spring break forever’ line sounds great every time) makes Harmony Korine seem unsure of himself. ‘Spring Breakers’ is a film worth watching and it might shape its own cult audience – still, because of it’s loose plot, clichéd monologues and rushed sequences it is condemned to be avoided or unappreciated by most.