Harmony Korine may be the writer of Larry Clark’s Kids (1995), director of Gummo (1997) and friends with Werner Herzog, but gaining a reputation as one of the many enfants terribles of American cinema doesn’t mean mediocre work can go unnoticed. That is not to say that Spring Breakers is a bad film per se – there are a few sparks of brilliance in it – but everyone who’s beyond the actual spring-break age may struggle to keep their attention focused on what is essentially a slow-motion-candy-colour-teen-bikini-tits-pills-guns-coke-pseudo-gangsta-rap-beach-rave video clip on constant rewind.
Part of the film’s problem may be that, as his projects have grown bigger, Korine wants too much, too fast. While Kids was all about sex, Spring Breakers is as much about sex as it is about violence, money and drugs, in equal measures. It’s the American teen dream (or nightmare) packed in 92 seemingly endless minutes. And as most dreams go, especially those on illegal highs, its sparse narrative, following four bored-to-death college girls on a crime spree to spring-break paradise, is elliptical, hazy and marked by recurrence and a sense of déjá vu.
When, soon after their arrival at St. Pete Beach, Brit (Ashley Benson), Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) end up in jail for dancing at the right party at the wrong time, they are bailed out by sleazy, big-mouthed local hustler Alien (James Franco), who takes the girls under his wing. It’s all fun and games with Alien too, who proudly announces that he has found his soulmates in the reckless blondes who would stop at nothing to have fun, until Cotty gets shot and chickens out, following devoutly religious Faith, who has long gone home. For the remaining two girls, however, the party is just getting started.
Korine himself said that he just wants to be as innovative, radical and personal as possible, and to get people who wouldn’t normally go for his stuff to watch his films. Fair enough, and Soderbergh’s Magic Mike (2012) has just proven that no matter how ambitious your intention as a director may be, you better keep things simple if you want to succeed at the box office, too. In fact, that there may well be a subtle melodrama hiding somewhere behind the sex-and-crime-obsession-imagery seems to unnecessarily complicate matters in Spring Breakers. But thanks to cinematographer Benoît Debie (Enter the Void, 2009) and a dubstep/electro soundtrack featuring DJ Skrillex and Winding-Refn’s composer, Cliff Martinez, you are sure to forget that thought within seconds, and instead find yourself trapped in a loop of booze, beach and boobs yet again.
Watch the trailer: