Sunday, March 17, 2013


We open to a sea of tanned, beautiful bodies with guys twirling beer pongs, girls with their tops off being sprayed with liquor, and it's all set to the thumping beat of Skrillex. Upon first watching, you might think you stumbled into a big screen version of "Girls Gone Wild." Not so fast. This may be spring break -- and the bros in your audience may be eating it up -- but it's also writer and director Harmony Korine's ("Trash Humpers," "Mister Lonely") ethereal, hypnotic and dreamlike "Spring Breakers," which serves up the stereotypical wet and wild party of college kids in Florida and takes a skewer to it.

He centers the story around four bored college girls, two of which were former Disney teen actresses, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, next to Ashley Benson and Rachel Corine. They are Faith, Candy, Brit and Cotty, and through a series of hazy, non-sequential scenes we piece together that they don't have enough money saved up to go on spring break. The solution? "Pretend it's a video game," one girl says to the group. "Act like it's a movie." And like that they're robbing a local chicken shack with a sledge hammer and squirt gun and on the bus to spring break.

"Spring Breakers" is also the alternative James Franco fare in theaters for those who don't want to see him pigeon-holed into his stifled "Oz" role. As a violent lunatic version of his stoner from "Pineapple Express," Franco's Alien is the type of character he should be playing. He's a white gangster rapper, wearing grills on his teeth and long cornrows, who bails the four girls out of jail after a party gets busted. He inherits them as his harem of women, and he their deranged prince charming. In a truly bizarre scene, he shows them his abode proclaiming, "Look at all my shit!" showing off his loads of cash, clothes and arsenal of weapons. Later he sits at a white piano and plays a rendition of Britney Spears' "Everytime," the girls fawning over his vapid caricature of success.

Guns are fetishised, and the fusion of sexuality and violence in Korine's vision creatures sultry out of malice. You're meant to cringe and squirm as he takes the youth American dream and pursuit of happiness to the ends of depravity, vanity and selfishness. The film is marked as a comedy, but you'll find any chuckles getting caught in your throat and turning into silent agape horror -- but you're also transfixed. The film's style is elliptical and nears a tonal poem. Phrases of dialogue are repeated, scenes flicker back and forth between past, present and future and the dreamscape -- photographed gorgeously by cinematographer Benoit Debie ("Enter The Void") -- is awash in neon lights. It's a beautiful dark fantasy that devolves into a disturbing nightmare.

Are these girls -- bikini-clad wearing pink ski masks and toting automatic weapons -- monsters, ignorant, privileged, clueless? Or are they a cog in the system of teenage adolescence looking for a reason to party and have fun? It's also Korine having fun with us as an audience in a trip that doesn't go down easy. It can't be considered a cautionary tale because it's too outrageous, but it does make you think. You certainly won't look at spring break the same way again.