‘Live Fast and Get Wasted’. A mantra that has encapsulated many a reality tv show/teen movie that continue to be embraced by this generation. Unashamed in their displays of provocative imagery, extremity of the crass verbal exchanges and the brash characters that consistently dominate such a format. To this particular cynic, they represent and mirror a world in financial and intellectual decline that has become increasingly superficial and satisfied to disregard any form of moral compass. Providing a permanent neon-tinted stain on the ‘coming of age’ film, ‘Spring Breakers’ is Harmony Korine’s full frontal examination of such a lifestyle.
Fully embracing the ‘good girl gone bad’ trajectory, we are introduced to an easy on the eye ‘quad’ of college girls growing disillusioned by the tedium of their education ‘routine’ and the confines of their scenery. Disney starlets Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez are Candy and Faith respectively, joined by the equally promiscuous Brit and Cotty (Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson).
Running low on funds, they set their sights on a colourful Spring Break trip to Florida and take aim at a local restaurant to fund their dream. On arrival, they are immediately intoxicated by the carefree lifestyle as well as the obligatory alcohol and drug intake. In unorthodox circumstances, they are soon greeted by an oddball wannabe rapper/hustler named Alien (James Franco) with his own underlying agenda.
Overpowering in its adrenaline rush of a soundtrack courtesy of Skrillex and Drive’s Cliff Martinez and peppered with various displays of nudity and partying, it is easy to dismiss ‘Spring Breakers’ as just another film insistent on partying hard and being scattershot in narrative structure. However, scratch the surface and Korine’s latest is a well disguised satirical attack at the youth of today and mainstream consumerism.
Poking fun at the over saturated music scene, with an inspired yet unnerving use of a Britney Spears ballad. The haunting and relentless sound of a gun cocking intercutting sequences, as we grow increasing immersed in the unforgiving world of gang culture. Director Korine is fully aware of his skewered intentions, as he paints a murky visual aesthetic complete with disorientating camerawork and memorable imagery.
With an inspired cast seemingly eager to shed their cutesy images, Selena Gomez excels as the conflicted Faith who battles with her own spiritual outlook, becoming reluctant to embrace the beliefs shared by her fellow ladies. Also unrecognisable is Vanessa Hudgens, unfazed in her role that is decidedly smutty in nature. The real standout however, is James Franco whose career moves continue to be near impossible to read. The actor’s trademark toothy grin with added ‘grills’ on show and his exaggerated pronounciation of ‘Springgg Breakkkk’, his ‘Alien’ is an unforgettably bizarre creation who has seized a warped form of the ‘American Dream’.
With its visceral and often unsettling ‘in your face’ style, the film will bemuse outsiders and detractors of such a culture. With such fare often playing it safe, Harmony Korine however deserves plaudits for his experimental and socially relevant approach, proving thoroughly engaging albeit ridiculously so.
Likely leaving you nursing a hangover of your own, ‘Spring Breakers’ is a trashy yet terrific deconstruction of how the glossy excesses of today’s media output, has managed to seduce and influence the actions of its target demographic.
Review by Darryl Griffiths