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"Spring Breakers" Review

The pregame hype on writer-director Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers revolved around three of its stars being Disney kiddy stars (Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens) or from tween fave Pretty Little Liars (Ashley Benson) and whether they were going to dirty up their squeaky clean images with some nudity in the course of its tale of young stupid girls on a rampage. Even Gomez seemed to hint that she'd disrobed, so when the film premiered the first (and only) question the pervs on the Internet wanted to know was "who gave up the goods?" It turned out nobody by Korine's wife, Rachel, but with the prurient interest out of the way, we can get onto whether Spring Breakers is a quality film? A: Ummm, not really, but it is an interesting mood experiment in editing and tone.

It starts a little on-the-nose with Gomez's Faith, a girl attending a Christian university it appears. (Get it? Faith? Moving on...) She's friends with Korine, Benson and Hudgens and they yearn to get away for spring break in Ft. Lauderdale, but they lack the cash until all the girls who aren't faith rob a diner with a squirt gun and a hammer. They torch the getaway ride and head for the sun, sand, booze, blow and mayhem of spring break.

Once there, of course, things take a turn for the worse as they are busted by the cops and tossed in jail. They can't pay the bail and are scared to call home, so it appears they'll languish if not for the assistance of hustler-dealer-rapper Alien (a totally-committed and nearly unrecognizable James Franco) who bails them out and wants to show them a good time. You don't need Google Maps to tell that this voyage is about to make some dark turns and by the end of the journey, you'll probably not have any idea where you are, where you were and who the people you were with were, but you'll be plenty certain you took a trip.

What's interesting about Spring Breakers is the way there are constant flash-forwards, flashbacks, and repetition of scenes and dialog with different contexts providing different results. We hear them calling home and lying to their grandmothers about what they're doing while slow-motion booty-shaking videos or see them passed out someplace. There are constant sound effects of guns being cocked (this gets grating pretty quickly) and we're constantly aware that bad things are upcoming, not that the present is all that much fun, no matter what they claim.

While the movie opens with a pounding Skrillex track over neon-garish footage of topless bimbos shaking their boobs and having beer poured over their chests by simian frat boys. It's absolutely repulsive and I'm pretty sure that's what Korine was going for. If anyone looks at these bacchanals and thinks this looks like a good time, they're as stupid as the quartet of girls.

The greater problem the movie has is that we don't really know who these girls are. They are simply behavior without motivation for the most part and when the final scenes unspool, it's even more detached from the unreality established beforehand. It's hard to root for people who are cyphers. What motivates their violent urges? Korine could've been more explicit.

There is also a weird ironic vibe going on with a big subplot involving Alien's problems with his former drug-dealing partner who now resents Alien working "his" streets and justifying calling for his murder to his posse while holding a baby, claiming that Alien is taking food out of her mouth - "My baby is hungry." - while sitting in a massive mansion with a Lamborghini parked out front.

While the performances are OK from the girls, with Hudgens and Benson putting a few dents in their images, the hands-down standout turn is Franco's Alien. While Franco has done some respectable work, he too often seems to be floating along on charm and a smirk, but here he is 110% in the game with a Dirrrty South drawl, a mouthful of gold grill, braided hair and a whole lotta guns, money, drugs and swagger.

If you're looking for a meaningful expose of wasted youth culture, you won't find it here; it's too scattered and fragmented in structure. Want to see boobs? You're already on the Internet; go find 'em - Vanessa Hudgens has nude photos out there revealing hella more than you'll see in Spring Breakers. But if you're in the mood for an experimental editing extravaganza and an off-the-chain performance from James Franco - plus anonymous bimbo boobs - then give it a peek.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable.


Dan O. said...

The film paints a fairly accurate portrait of this generation we all live in and at the same time, making a comment. For that bold step, the movie deserves praise. Nice review Dirk.

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