Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine
Watch Spring Breakers online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV Store / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Spring Breakers is that rare thing: a film that manages to be about something and at the same time nothing. A vacuous, exploitative pile of trash that satirises vacuous, exploitative piles of trash, it celebrates the culture that surrounds Spring Break while firmly sticking two fingers up at it. And wearing a ski mask.
“Spring Break forever!” chant our young heroines, robbing a roadside café to get enough money for the coach trip to paradise. Fresh out of Disney’s high school, it’s no coincidence that Harmony Korine’s picked Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens (alongside Ashley Benson and his wife Rachel) for this ceremonial deflowering.
From the off, these hitherto innocent girls are submerged in a world of tits, beer and more tits – a prospect that will no doubt be enough to entice many students to download the film. But what they’ll find themselves faced with is something very different. “We’ve made so many friends here, mum. Everyone’s so sweet,” says one of the girls on the phone, before they get banged up in jail for doing cocaine.
It’s not a subtle film; the irony is shoved in your face as much as the slow-motion montages of jiggling breasts. But because Harmony’s so busy undercutting every cute-faced whoop and excited cheer, we quickly stop caring about any of Korine’s characters. Gomez’s girl (called Faith) makes a swift early exit – symbolism ahoy – but the others are all completely interchangeable. If they have names, no one bothers to learn them.
Halfway through, though, Spring Breakers’ saving grace appears: James Franco. Rocking up like the idiot younger brother of Iron Man 3’s The Mandarin, the Day-Glo gangster bails the girls out of prison, rapping, sliming and threatening his way into becoming their pimp. He calls himself Alien. “I’m on another planet, y’all!” he grins with metal teeth.
The unrecognisable Franco injects the only real notes of humour into this dark satire; a gun-toting fool who praises the girls’ desire to live his American Dream. “Look at all my shit!” he yells, jumping up and down on a bed. “I got shorts! In every fucking colour!”
They buy into what he’s selling, leading to even more montages of boobies and guns. But as the bodies pile up, Korine’s woozy visuals and Franco’s repetitive mantra soon find an entertaining rhythm – a high-paced blur of floating lights and looped whispers, cut together with the click of a loaded gun. The warped music video reaches an absurd climax with an flawless, audacious use of Everytime, sung by Franco himself. It’s without a doubt the best on-screen use of Britney Spears in movie history.
Those few minutes of sheer perfection aside, does satirising vacuous exploitative trash give Korine a free pass to do it himself? “Spring Break, forever, y’all!” they chant one last time, just in case we didn’t get the message the previous 50 times. If we gave a damn about any of them, maybe it would leave a lasting impression. Instead, it remains – like its characters – enjoyably intoxicated, but mostly just hollow.
Spring Breakers is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription.
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