"I got Scarface on repeat. Constant, ya'll."
The Spring Breakers sit around, bored in class. While the professor dispenses knowledge, the girls doodle in their notebooks, drawing penises with 'Spring Break' written on them. They smoke weed in dorms and perform gymnastics in the hallways, brainstorming different ways to fund a trip down to South Florida for the annual rite of excessive drinking and nudity. This is a land where one-piece suits and body hair are strictly forbidden.
A hasty plan is formulated to rob a local diner to come up with the needed resources. Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Brit (Ashley Benson) run point, while Cotty (Rachel Korine) is behind the wheel. It's clear that Candy and Brit want something far deeper and darker than the rest. Their antics are violent and purposeful. They smash tables with hammers and shove fake guns into the faces of bystanders. Cotty is along for the ride, but her methods lack the ferocity of her counterparts. The fourth member of the troupe, Faith (Selena Gomez) is left out, probably for her own good. At the time, she's attending a church service. The scenes of the robbery are cut with Faith being asked if she's, "being jacked up by Jesus."
The film basks in a drunken fluorescent glow whenever things start to go awry. Director Harmony Korine mixes in a slew of effects, slow motion, over saturation, depixelation. The sounds of Cliff Martinez and Skrillex waft through our ears as the girls grind on one another, chug beer bongs and do lines of coke. Their fun ends when they're busted by the police, forcing them to spend a night in jail in their swimsuits. Their savoir comes in the form of Alien, a cornrowed, tattooed, grill-adorning rapper wannabe who bails them out from behind bars.
James Franco is Alien, and he plays him to perfection. He's also alien in the way that Franco totally escapes into this peculiar, possibly misunderstood character. Candy and Brit become a stimulus to him. His rough, ridiculous exterior masks a soft spot for his newfound soulmates. There's a hilarious scene when Alien gives the girls a tour of his room, showing off a range of his possessions. "I got shorts, every fucking color. I got designer t-shirts. I got gold bullets. I got nunchucks. I got shurikens. I got my dark tannin' oil, lay out by the pool. This is the American dream, ya'll."
All four of the girls are well cast. Korine says he went out of his way to hire leads whose admittance would be a watercooler talking point. Gomez acts the most innocent. After she's had her fill of what St. Petersburg has to offer, she changes from her suit into a shirt covered in puppies and boards a bus to return her to normalcy. As she's driving away, her hand lingers on the window, attempting to absorb any residual effect that she can preserve a few moments longer. Rachel Korine is director Harmony's wife, and he places her in the most precarious positions. At one point she's laying on the ground, topless, covered in beer, as a group of leering, sweaty guys encircle her. It's a nervous moment while you wonder how far Korine is willing to play this out. Hudgens and Benson share the most screen time and their performances are go for broke. The two's (along with Gomez) background comes from the squeaky-clean Disney empire, and it's no question that they're doing all they can to shed their former image. Hudgens in particular is the most uninhibited.
Korine makes a conscious effort to please a wide scope of audiences. There is an abundance of T&A, and enough bros crushing brews to sate even the most voracious appetite. Still, the film toes a line between mainstream attraction and experimental, allowing too the cinematic purists their moment in the bronzing sun. Korine has never distanced himself from contentious material. He was the scribe behind 1995's KIDS, an in depth and traumatic look at New York City's youth. His first three efforts behind the camera (GUMMO, MISTER LONELY, TRASH HUMPERS) had ambition, but lacked much critical or financial recognition. I suspect that SPRING BREAKERS will flip that trend, and do so quickly.
SPRING BREAKERS is not so much trippy, but drippy. Oozing with firearms, beautiful bodies, and false machismo. Faith's various voiceovers try to evoke a form of purity in their initial actions. This is in stark contrast to the consistent drumming of Alien's monotone mantra, "Sprinnnng Breaaaak," and the sound of cocking pistols which jolt us as the energy threatens to dwindle even for an instant. The girls get caught up in Alien's world, joining him on various heists, but things deteriorate quickly after being unluckily involved in a turf war with Alien's former mentor (Gucci Mane). Harmony Korine has found something here. It's a credit to his craft that he was able to capture something valuable at a place where people are their most hedonistic. Late in the film, the Spring Breakers, garbed in neon bikinis, pink ski masks, and automatic weapons gather around a white piano on a beachfront property. They ask Alien to play something fun, something uplifting. He thinks for a moment before deciding on Britney Spears's 'Everytime.' The girls eventually join in, grabbing each other's guns and spinning in circles in an absurd sing-a-long. Spring Break forever, bitches.