Kudos to Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers, starring James Franco (gangster Alien), Selena Gomez (Faith), Ashley Benson (Brit), Vanessa Hudgens (Candy) and Rachel Korine (Cotty). This fantasy, crime thriller about one of North America’s biggest rites of passage - Spring Breakers – will surprise, delight and horrify.
Harmony Korine’s list of awards and nominations is impressive. He has been prolific in the film world as a screenwriter, actor and feature film director. His view of the world is provocative, original and shocking. Korine brings an exceptional perspective about modern society profiling the realities the current teen generation with intense insight. His subject knowledge is remarkable down to the smallest nuances. His study and portrayal of character is masterful as he skillfully peels back the onion to look at modern American society.
Korine’s films feature people on the fringes of society and adolescents/youth struggling to find their place. Kids (1995) about an HIV positive skateboarder who sets out to deflower as many virgins as possible, won the Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Trash Humpers (2009), a rather repugnant film about derelict old men was a TIFF selection. Mister Lonely (2007) moved fully into the fantasy realm. These movies are really a prelude to what Korine has accomplished with Spring Breakers.
Spring Breakers is a fantasy thriller but there are many references to a North American Bacchanalian world that are disturbingly real. Korine has given such detailed attention to language, clothing, makeup, music (rap, dubstep, Britney Spears), characters, and settings. He spent time in the middle of spring break festivities and got a first hand introduction to real gangsters with rapper ‘Gucci Mane’. The cinematography is superb and the performances from the actors outstanding. James Franco deserves Oscar attention for his role as gangster Alien (of course Spring Breakers may be just a little too shocking for the Academy). The performances by the four BFFs are outstanding and very courageous. Korine plunges us into the fast, dangerous, highly sexual world driven by immediate gratification that young people fantasize about. Spring Break; warm beaches, beautiful young people, endless fun, seems to be the perfect escape from modern reality.
Spring Breakers immerses the audience in a world of parties, drugs and wild sex from the four ‘Best Friends Forever’ very ‘girl’ point of view. The four BFFs Candy, Cotty, Brit and Faith are fed up with their boring, restrictive, predictable college world and insignificant lives. They want to break free and start living the life they feel is within their grasp – if they can just get there. Candy and Brit take the lead, deciding on a course of action that pushes all the girls across a line and down a path of life altering decisions that will escalate once they get the money to go on Spring Break.
Faith (Salena Gomez) is sweet, insecure, indecisive and strongly influenced by Brit (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens). Brit and Candy are much more brash, think in unison and are oblivious to anything except their own needs. They encourage each other to push every limit to get what they want. Faith allows herself to be swept along as part of the quartet. She follows them on a trip full of promiscuity and dangerous decisions. Surprisingly the girls are searching for what is meaningful in life. Cotty (Rachel Korine) is more committed than Faith to living in the fast lane but eventually even she cannot live life turned up to the volume of Brit and Candy. Circumstances bring her face to face with her need to make a serious decision about her choices in life.
Spring Breakers opens with images of Florida and a partying lifestyle that has been glamourized by MTV. Music, naked bodies, wild dancing, lewd behavior, boozing, drugs, rap music events; partiers completely detached from any other reality, inciting each other to greater and greater degrees of debauchery. Some viewers may be shocked – well these viewers are in for a surprise – Spring Break has only begun. Enter the gangster Alien (Franco) who will seduce the girls into entering his exclusive world of money, sex, drugs, parties and power. At this point the girls start to come to grips with how their roles will unfold, who they really are and the consequences of their actions.
Spring Breakers had its North American Premiere at TIFF and is now set for international release. We can expect some interesting feedback. Not for family viewing.