Runtime: 1 HR, 35 MIN
Director: Harmony Korine
Writers: Harmony Korine
Starring: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane, James Franco
Every year thousands if not millions of teens and young adults flock to beachside Mecca’s to enjoy the sun and surf of spring break. While most of these trips are innocent enough with just some drinking, “light” drug use, and flippant sexuality other spring break adventures are more tumultuous… at least Harmony Korine thinks so.
Four childhood girlfriends decide it’s time for some adventure and leave their boring college lives behind by heading to Florida for spring break. What starts off as an innocent vacation of tanning, drinking, and riding mopeds quickly descends into lawless anarchy. The girl’s situation becomes more complicated when they become entangled in the shady underworld of a drug dealer/rapper named Alien.
Spring Breakers is one of the most talked about films of 2013 thanks in no small part due to the somewhat creepy jailbait factor associated with its young starlets and the “what the hell?” factor of watching James Franco playing a cornrowed, drug dealing rapper. Literally seeing Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens strip off their good girl images by pulling their own version of an Elizabeth Berkley Showgirls-esque transformation is an interesting concept and James Franco’s brilliantly bizarre performance is certainly worth talking about but overall Spring Breakers isn’t a cinematic vacation I’d want to take again.
Harmony Korine has made a career of writing and directing films about young people making poor choices whether it be his debut screenplay of 1995’s Kids or 1997’s Gummo that he both wrote and directed. He’s continued making independent films and shorts but his most recent projects have failed to garner the same critical acclaim. The story doesn’t follow a conventional plot structure; it wanders from situation to situation without any kind of goal in mind. Spring Breakers appears to be his attempt to recapture some of his earlier success by capitalizing on his young female cast behaving badly; unfortunately it doesn’t work very well.
Spring Breakers puts Korine’s understanding of twenty something girls under the microscope and the results are not positive. Much of the film’s flimsy story rests firmly on the bare shoulders of Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Harmony’s own wife Rachel Korine. Unfortunately it’s too hard to believe that these girls are capable of such poor judgment while being so nihilistically naïve that their actions are justified. From the moment you realize that these girls don’t exist in a world anywhere near reality as most of us know it Spring Breakers becomes a very expensive Girls Gone Wild video.
Clocking in at 94 minutes long Spring Breakers could have easily been shortened by fifteen minutes. Dialogue is repeated ad nauseam as are shots of the cast and extras partying- not just shots from the same party, but the exact same shots over and over and over again. Korine let his desire to make an art house film get in the way of him making a film about the darker side of spring break and instead made a pretentious, uninteresting mess.
None of the female performances stir much excitement; sure they can all fill out a bikini, drink and smoke, and dance around but there’s no emotional connection to be made with any of them. Their roles could have been just as effectively played by four complete unknowns without missing a beat. The only character that really creates any sense of awe is Alien, who is brilliantly portrayed by James Franco. It’s unsettling how easily he disappears into the role almost like Gary Oldman as Drexel in True Romance. Franco is the reason to see Spring Breakers; it’s unfortunate that an amazing performance is stuck in such a forgettable film.
I’m not sure Spring Breakers ever really had a chance. Despite its independent art house roots there’s very little to latch onto so instead we’re left with a film that’s simply trying to capitalize on a bunch of good girls gone bad. Writer/director Harmony Korine seems a little out of his element, past his prime, and in general too old for this kind of film. Even in our narcissistic society filled with kids with entitlement issues Spring Breakers comes across as unrealistic and pretentious with its only real redeeming quality being James Franco- how often do you ever hear that?