Brit (Ashley Benson), Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are best friends anxious to cut loose on their own spring break adventure, but they lack sufficient funds. After holding up a restaurant for quick cash, the girls head to the shore in a stolen car for what they discover is the party of a lifetime. They're thrown in jail - but quickly bailed out by Alien (James Franco), a local rapper, drug pusher and arms dealer who lures them into a criminal underbelly that's as lurid as it is liberating for a close-knit gang of girlfriends who are still figuring out their path.
When Harmony Korine busted onto the scene as the writer of Larry Clark's controversial movie Kids, he became one of the young players to watch in the movie business. His directorial debut, Gummo, introduced the world to his quirky style of filmmaking and, judging from Spring Breakers, Korine has not allowed himself to grow up at all.
Spring Breakers is the story of four college girls (Selena Gomez from "Wizards of Waverly Place," Ashley Benson from "Pretty Little Liars," Vanessa Hudgens from "High School Musical," and Rachel Korine from many of husband Harmony's movies including Mister Lonely and Trash Humpers) who are dying to go to Florida for Spring Break. After robbing a cafe to secure the funds (with squirt guns, no less), they make their way south. As soon as they arrive, the girls find themselves at the wrong party and get arrested for drug possession. They are bailed out by a wannabe rapper/drug dealer named Alien (127 Hours' James Franco), but not because he's a nice guy; he expects them to start helping him with his business, and they do...until business gets a little too heavy.
That's pretty much all there is to Spring Breakers. No, really...aside from the last 15 minutes or so, that's the entire movie. What the film lacks in substance, Korine tries to make up for with gimmicks - Spring Breakers is more like an MTV Special than a hard-boiled crime drama. The film is very loose and unstructured. With its long periods of the girls hanging around doing a whole lot of nothing, Spring Breakers seems more like a Frederick Wiseman documentary than a feature film, except that Wisemanâs films have more happening in them.
Spring Breakers really is a mess. While Harmony Korine's entire catalog is somewhat experimental, Spring Breakers lacks focus and is completely disjointed, even by his standards. Korine is credited as both writer and director, but it doesn't seem like the film has much of either going on. The movie comes off like a reality show; the camera seems to just run while the girls make things up on the fly. It would seem as if the actresses, particularly Gomez and Hudgens, are trying to re-invent themselves in order to leave their Disney roots behind. Unfortunately for them, Spring Breakers is not a good vehicle for it. While it is shocking to see the girls associated with the subject matter in the film, it's just not a good enough movie to help any of the cast break their mold. Hopefully, for Harmony Korine's next movie, he'll start with writing a script.
As a reality show rip-off, Spring Breakers is largely improvised off of Harmony Korine's story outline. Unfortunately, that approach only works when the cast is talented. Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine are not improvisational actors, and they get really annoying after about the third time they all yell "SPRING BREAK!!!" The girls performances are uninspired, repetitive and just plain ridiculous. James Franco, on the other hand, is the shining star in the cast. The man is a chameleon and his turn as the white-boy rapper Alien is a strong point in an otherwise weak film. The audience can almost feel his frustration as he tries to play off of his less experienced castmates. The girls seem to be out of their comfort zones, either because of the lack of a hard script or the change in thematic content from the films they'd made in the past. Either way, aside from Franco, the acting in Spring Breakers isn't convincing.
Besides James Franco's performance, the saving grace in Spring Breakers is the creative and inspiring cinematography by BenoÃ®t Debie (The Runaways, The Card Player). Like Harmony Korine's other films, Spring Breakers is gritty and coarse. Most of it looks to have been shot handheld with tight, close shots and lots of camera movement. Long, drawn out takes are used to capture the girl's antics, and they are particularly successful during the few times when the girls are performing actions instead of conversing. For example, in the scene where the girls rob the cafe, the camera stays in the car with the getaway driver as the robbers enter through the restaurant's rear door. The car slowly rolls around to the front of the building with the camera looking past the driver through the windows of the cafe watching the girls terrorizing the customers until they exit from the front and all drive off. It's all done in one take, and it serves as one of the most interesting scenes in the movie. Debie's photography gives the viewer something to look at once they realize that there's not much else to Spring Breakers.
March 15, 2013