The premise of a film starring teen queens Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez about girls going wild on Spring Break did not fill my heart with joy or indeed Glee, (one of them must have been in that, right?), but Spring Breakers was somewhat of a surprise. Directed by sometime enfant terrible and writer of the rather more gritty 90’s teenagers-gone-wild picture Kids, Harmony Korine, the premise of 4 good looking girls going on spring break gets elevated to surreal, dreamlike levels. Being too poor to afford to go away with their friends the girls decide to rob a local restaurant to fund their trip, and begin a journey into distinctly murky moral territory.
The opening sequence is of stereotypically debauched behaviour, in keeping with the image of American spring break. However, put into the hands of Korine and Irreversible cinematographer Benoit Debie this spring break becomes somewhat more of a surreal Lynchian dream/nightmare.
The girls (including Korine’s wife Rachel) are given very little dialogue, their role largely to provide the catalyst for this tale of excess, consumerism and casual violence. What dialogue there is is often repeated, looping over dreamy visuals, drawing us further into the girls muddled world.
Once they reach Florida their tale joins up with James Franco’s rapper and real life gangster, Alien. A corn-rowed Franco is allowed a great deal more dialogue than the girls, and brings a sinister sleazy charm to his psychopathic character.
The whole film is like a feverish, melancholy dream, and is visually stunning and inventive. The subject matter may be more controversial and it feels like Korine is deliberately side-stepping actually taking a moral stand, leaving the film in a weird place between being sleazy misogynistic soft porn and carefully considered art. However the odd, melancholic, dreamy tone pulls it together and offers something that will certainly start multiple conversations.
Bonkers, beautiful and definitely controversial, Spring Breakers was not at all what I expected, and I am sure many fans of Hudgens and Gomez would have been left mightily perplexed. In fact, it almost feels like that is Korine’s joke, drawing audiences in with the expectations of beautiful bodies and excess and giving just them that but through an intelligent art-house filter.