Review by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco
Running time: 94 minutes
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a bad dream about pop culture in these United States, albeit a gorgeous one. Since 1997’s Gummo, his feature-length directorial debut, Korine’s been making sure American ugly looks pretty. That first film lensed weird Middle America to stunning effect; Spring Breakers takes his eye to the obvious place for insanity: Florida.
Our protagonists, four college-aged women (Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Benson) who want to live a little, need additional scratch to afford the pilgrimage to the Sunshine State for the kind of excess introduced in the film’s eye-popping opening: breasts that wobble like Jell-O, lubricated bros hoisting jiggling women-flesh onto their shoulders for all to see, lots of booze, the fellating of dripping red, white, and blue popsicles. To get that money, they rob a chicken shack in a brilliant sequence shot from the driver’s side window of a car slowly circling the establishment (with musical accompaniment by Nicki Minaj). If this all sounds lurid, you’re getting the point.
From there, the girls make it to St. Petersburg, where they meet Alien (played by James Franco), the drug-dealing trap rap clown. The story progress in curlicues and loopty loops, where cutaway scenes replay moments you’ve already seen. They’re like GIFs that encourage nostalgia for what you just watched 20 minutes ago. No one will confuse the movie for 2012 or 2011 work—this is very right now. And that’s not a complaint.
Whether it be Alien playing Britney Spears on a white baby grand while the girls dance in a circle with guns, or dude-bros in jockstraps demanding pussy in a trashed motel room, Korine embraces spectacle, those scenes that bring the narrative to a near-halt and just show your ass something (usually something awesome or awful).
Like photographer Diane Arbus before him, Korine seeks out twins, finds them to be the neatest representation of the uncanny. And when he can’t find twins, doubles and rhyming images must do. There are the ATL Twins—literal twins—who dig double penetration and are friends of Alien’s. There’s Alien and his former best friend turned rival for the streets of St. Pete, Archie (Gucci Mane). There are the two threesomes. There’s the opening popsicle BJ cluster and a later one, with machine guns. There’s the colorful bacchanal of spring break visually linked to the bright stained glass at the caffeinated Bible study group where Faith, the pious girl in the crew (Disney’s Selena Gomez), looks bored (despite the presence of Guy Fieri lookalike who talks about Jesus).
There’s no double for Spring Breakers; you’ll find nothing else in theaters now that so gleefully throws the nasty images of American excess (and Internet culture, which is practically the same thing) back into the faces of its consumers. And it all looks so good. Like candy. Even if it might just be buzzwords—trap, teen stars gone wild, EDM—that smash into each other for total sensory overload. Or a stomach ache.
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