Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Selina Gomez, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Date: April 5th
Harmony Korine might just be mellowing out as he navigates middle-age. He’s married, with child, and has been clean for a while—all this for a man who once started losing his teeth due to heroin over indulgence and was politely never invited back to Late Night with David Letterman after having a prolonged gander through Meryl Streep’s handbag. After trailblazing success writing Larry Clark’s Kids, he freebased through the nineties and early new millennium with largely idiosyncratic—and hugely unwatchable—movies, culminating in Trash Humpers, a film about people who, well, hump trash.
Spring Breakers sees him attempt his most ambitious piece yet: a Hollywood movie. Starring James Franco, a slew of former Disney starlets and financed by Megan Ellison—the billionaire heir and financial muscle behind The Master, Zero Dark Thirty and Lawless—Korine aims to work within the Hollywood system while subverting all its values. Its four leads are broke young college students, who head down to Florida for the titular holiday. Seemingly out of nowhere, a harebrained scheme is hatched to rob a local diner and when it pays off, the quartet head for St. Petersburg for sun, sex and snow meeting rapper-cum-dealer Alien (Franco).
It has all the hallmarks of some trashy, hugely quotable and cultish fun, and while it certainly is trashy, it lacks in the others. Also, for a movie where James Franco fellates two handguns, Gucci Mane acts like Gucci Mane and former Mickey Mouse cadets cuss, hiss and piss on streets, it all feels a tad timid. Korine shoots for shocks but the party scenes look no more salacious than an episode of Ibiza Uncovered shot through an Instagram filter with a Skrillex soundtrack.
Half the hype is the presence of Selina Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens who have almost completely opposite roles. Gomez holds back in both character and performance, attempting to be the moral compass on a ship that sails best when it has no direction. Hudgens, meanwhile, is a revelation, completely immersing herself in the role and acting like her prep work was a two-month stint in the Chateau Marmont with Lindsay Lohan and a “winning” era Charlie Sheen. The main event, of course, is James Franco’s turn as a high roller gangster that shows he can get as wonderfully warped as Crispin Glover and, perhaps, operates best in character roles. He fully embodies this ridiculous creation—be it straight-facing through a both absurd and sublime Britney Spears cover or spewing out an MTV Cribs inspired litany of all that he got. Yes, he’s got Scarface. On repeat.
The most disappointing performance is Korine himself, Spring Breakers longs to be dafter and free yet it keeps being reeled in; atmosphere is favoured over outlandishness, editing over egregious carry-on. Likewise, when Franco is off screen, you immediately feel the lack of the magnetic pull that emanates from his ludicrous grills. The girls live by the mantra, “Spring break forever!”, the rest of us will be happy it’s time to go back to home.