No fun in the sun in dreary ‘Spring Breakers’
From left, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens star in "Spring Breakers."
Updated: March 21, 2013 3:54PM
At first glance, it appeared that indie shock auteur Harmony Korine (“Kids,” “Julien the Donkey Boy”) might be attempting a change of pace with “Spring Breakers.”
There seemed some hope he might be going for something like a parody — either of the annual bacchanalia of college kids observing the Rite of Spring Break or ’60s beach party movies or both — instead of his usual dreary meditation on today’s youth as a directionless, degenerate, self-destructive generation of idiots and losers.
No such luck, unfortunately. Though he’s dialed up the weirdness to almost immeasurable extremes in an attempt at twisted humor, “Spring Breakers” has nothing much to say about the spring break phenomenon or anything else for that matter. Worse, it’s too unfocussed and pointless to have much effect even as an exercise in exploitation. Despite the presence of two former Disney Channel starlets transitioning from all-American wholesomeness to full-tilt sleaze.
College kids Faith (Selena Gomez) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) play the relatively good girl and bad girl, respectively, in a quartet of girls pining to get all “Girls Gone Wild” down in Florida. The only problem is, they don’t have the money. What’s a girl to do? No worries: just steal a professor’s car, rob a roadside diner with water pistols and a sledge hammer, and catch a southbound bus to party town.
Sound funny, perhaps? It might have been, in a Russ Meyer sort of way, if Korine hadn’t been so intent on showing the girls terrorizing the diners and clearing getting sadistic pleasure from doing so. Religiously inclined Faith doesn’t take part in the robbery, by the way, though there’s no real reason for mentioning that, since it doesn’t play a part in what happens later — and she has no qualms about spending the ill-gotten cash.
Cut to Fort Lauderdale (or wherever kids congregate for springtime debauchery these days) and a lengthy montage of the girls riding cute rented scooters and indulging in all manner of raunchiness: sucking down booze, snorting coke, smoking spliffs and rutting with strangers in tawdry motel rooms. “This is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been,” Faith says during a phone call home but, again, it’s not funny. She’s just ditzy enough to believe it.
And they’re all ditzy enough to be surprised when their non-stop party winds up getting them thrown in jail — in their bikinis of course. It’s worth noting that the only thing Korine really seems focused on here is the film’s non-stop parade of boobs and bootays barely restrained by tiny bikinis — and sometimes bursting free. Is this his way of making ironic commentary on society’s objectification of women — by amping it up beyond the norm? Maybe, but it doesn’t feel that way.
There’s no real plot in “Spring Breakers,” aside from a meandering, vaguely forward-moving collection of scenes as the girl’s adventure becomes increasingly depraved. It does manage to shift from over-the-top sex to potential violence, though, when the girls are bailed out of prison by a gangster/wannabe rap star played by James Franco — only to find themselves in the middle of a turf war involving another drug-dealing thug.
Franco’s performance as Alien is so off-the-charts strange, with his metal grillz, dollar-sign neck tattoo and pride in showing off his ocean-front mansion with an arsenal of guns, mountains of cash, white baby-grand piano by the pool and copy of “Scarface” running in an endless loop, that it rates an extra half star all on its own. Unfortunately, Alien’s schtick turns monotonous quickly, along with all the other attempts to shock the audience, because it means nothing and it’s going nowhere.
The only thing you’re going to want to do after this Spring Break is go home and forget about it.