College students Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Faith (Slena Gomez) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are desperate to go to spring break, so they find a dubious way in which to raise the funds. Once at spring break itself, the party rages so out of control that the girls are arrested and it falls to drug dealer Alien (James Franco) to bail them out.
Director Harmony Korine has long courted controversy, and Spring Breakers is not going to be the film to reverse that trend. Audiences in the US are already up in arms about the casting of Tween sensations (including Selena Gomez) as morally bankrupt characters, and two rappers are involved in a debate about which of them inspired James Franco’s character. But the question is, is Spring Breakers any good?
The answer is ‘Sort Of’. Since interviewing Korine for Movies.ie, I have gained a greater insight into what the director was trying to say through the film, but the trouble is that trying to cram a narrative into a film whose structure resembles a dug addled music video doesn’t quite work.
According to Korine, the story of the film is not necessarily something that could happen, but since we are being invited into the world of spring break, we have to believe that this world – however heightened it may be – is true for the characters. The story is incredibly simple, so then characters should come to the fore. They do, but since we are never really told much about the women in the film and their motivations, their sudden transformations are difficult to understand. But then, maybe we don’t need to understand; maybe we just need to accept this transformation as a comment on society as Korine sees it.
As far as performances go, it’s great to see Gomez, Benson and Hudgens playing against type, and trying out darker roles. None of the actresses, including Korine’s wife Rachel, is really given a chance to develop past the superficial, and it seems that no character changes much throughout the movie; they simply become more deeply entrenched in the beliefs held at the start of the film. As well as this, some of the choices made by characters are simply incomprehensible, and at times it seems that Korine wanted to make a 90 minute music video, and not a narrative film.
Where the film excels is in the visual; colour pops throughout, and while the story may come and go, there is always something great to look at, not least, piles of tanned and toned flesh. Korine uses bright colours as a contrast to the dark emotional and spiritual path that the characters go on, and his use of Britney Spears songs – the pop princess who journeyed through some dark times to come out the other side – serves to underline this.
Spring Breakers looks good and sounds good. It is refreshing to see actors playing against type, but the underdevelopment of characters and motivations lets the film down. Instead of being a rich and layered film that explored the dark side of human relationships, Spring Breakers is a violent neon explosion of a film that tries very hard to say something, but ends up not saying much of anything.