Move over Disney Channel, bubblegum princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens ditch their innocence for guns, drugs and balaclavas in Harmony Korine‘s racy Spring Breakers.
In a film about four university girls on a mission to find themselves in the sleaziest corners of America’s ‘sunshine state’, the most anticipated cinematic release of the month turns out to be a dubstep-saturated gang war epic, but what could’ve come out with a shotgun bang is no more than a meek attempt at addressing hot topics.
Bongs and dick jokes
If you ever saw High School Musical, or have simply heard of Justin Bieber, you’ll recognise Disney alums Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, but you’ve never seen these teen icons in this way before, certainly not smoking bongs and making dick jokes. While Gomez plays to her good-girl strengths as religious, baby-faced Faith, Hudgens is sex-loving, no-nonsense Candy, and the two are joined by sultry blonde Brit (Ashley Benson of Pretty Little Liars fame) and often naked Cotty (the director’s wife, Rachel Korine).
The foursome is introduced as a group of friends hungry for soul-searching and desperately deprived of partying, so when the funds fall short they take to robbing a fast food joint, complete with water pistols and their most badass threats.
What they want can seemingly only be found in Florida: the beach-boys-and-house-parties salvation showcased by shots of slow-mo bouncing boobs and beer bongs galore. Once they touch down in their own personal mecca, the film spirals into a world of tested friendships, more sex, violence and crime, at the heart of which is James Franco with cornrows, aptly named Alien, and the ever-menacing Gucci Mane as gangster boss Archie.
Soundtrack of Britney Spears irony
After a brief stint in jail (bikini attire intact), the girls dive into a sticky-sweet R-rated relationship with Alien, and Franco is the shining star of the film, admittedly the most likeable of the characters and the intriguing personality that keeps the plot going. “Look at all my sh*t” says Franco with a goofy silver-grille smile and almost childlike excitement as he motions to his copious amount of weapons and drugs.
When Alien’s predicament with rival boss Archie unfolds, the girls become accessories to nasty jobs, but the absence of moral compass lets them find euphoria in it all. Stark irony is a theme throughout, as between scenes (marked by the deafening crack of an automatic weapon) the girls exhibit false innocence by watching kids’ TV series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and crooning Britney Spears tunes, an odd but fitting soundtrack to the Spring Breakers world.
Overall, the strength of the film is in its cinematography, an art-cinema triumph with scene jumps and flashbacks that create moments of confusion but also keep the pace. The biggest problem with the film is that you’re left caring very little about the characters, other than to raise a few eyebrows to the strength of their friendships during certain events.
Spring Breakers is a sizeable hour and a half long, yet you learn very little about these raunchy neon-clad deviants and hear too few reasons explaining why they’re doing what they’re doing, to really sympathise with them.
In the end, this provocative attempt at bringing mainstream actors into a modern biopic of America’s very real, very threatening circumstances falls short of any equally real pay-off, and while snapshots of exhilaration make the film worth a watch, the reiteration of shallow delinquency doesn’t leave much of a mark.
If “that’s what life is about,” as Alien insists, then Spring Breakers hasn’t done much to address it.
Spring Breakers is released in cinemas April 5.