Cookies Tossed, Paradise Lost

Spring Breakers is art debauched

Until now, writer/director Harmony Korine’s brand of artistic weirdness has been completely useless. Intentionally obtuse to the point of sloppy goofiness, his work has differed from student films solely because he wasn’t enrolled.

So how the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is Spring Breakers the most compelling, disorienting and sublime film of this young year?

If Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive got some of its chocolate in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights’ peanut butter, the result would be Korine’s latest. A volatile cocktail of drunken art-house fare and B-movie exploitation, trying to figure out the larger message framing this experience is tilting at windmills…topless, nubile windmills…

The plot is a gossamer thing, consisting of little more than a trip to Miami for four friends: Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine). Short on cash, the latter three pals decide the best way to finance their trip is to rob a diner. Faith is horrified to discover the cash’s origin, but not enough to turn down a bus ticket. The girls behave like incarnations of a pubescent boy’s imagination, constantly pantless and cleavage-heavy, seemingly always a centimeter from lesbian experimentation. In Miami, such behavior is called “the tourist industry,” and Korine fires this into our eyes relentlessly. He succeeds in making bare breasts mundane and exhausting, turning sexuality into something like a chore.

When the girls meet Alien (James Franco), everything goes batshit insane…okay, more batshit insane. Alien is a whiteboy rapper, gun runner and drug peddler at war with Archie (Gucci Mane). He is the incarnation of American excess, evident in his repeated admonition to “look at all my shit!” To be in Alien’s company is to court danger, and for some of the girls, that’s relationship they waited a lifetime to find.

Spring Breakers makes most sense as a visually opulent Grimm’s fairy tale, with less of a moral and more scary teeth. The girls aren’t girls so much as indistinguishable sexualized objects. Alien is not a human so much as temptation given flesh. Miami is not a destination so much as an imaginary cultural wasteland. Korine paints with neon colors, more obsessed with “the right feel” than a message. Nothing about this feels cohesive; it’s a chaotic combination of skin and sin. The girls are splendid, even if they blend to form one mega-girl. In particular, Korine’s wife, Rachel, who looks like Jennifer Lawrence and acts like Juliette Lewis, is devastatingly sincere. But this is Franco’s masterpiece. It turns out he’s neither stupid nor terrible; he’s just strange as hell and only comfortable playing completely bonkers.  His inspired accent makes his disarmingly charismatic weirdo one of the classic and quotable characters in recent film. While Disney should lose his number, Korine should probably keep it.

Spring Breakers is uncomfortable and awesome, confusing and beautiful. It is a Frankenstein’s monster made of leftover parts of other genres, sewn together by a madman, and in its own way, sorta brilliant.

Grade = A

posted at 04:29 am
on Saturday, March 23rd, 2013


(We're testing Disqus commenting (finally!); please let us know if you have trouble.)

comments powered by Disqus


« Previous Page

Fury Is Missing Fast

Inside of writer/director David Ayer’s Fury is a tight, 90-minute, “we will hold this line” war movie populated with complex characters and surprisingly good performances. Problem is, it was slipped...

more »

The Adventures of Super Vlad

Left out of the superhero movie party every other studio is throwing, Universal made the ballsy decision to turn Dracula into caped crusader. Gone are the prominent widow’s peak, goofy accent and...

more »

Everyone is Awful

Warning to newly engaged couples: Do not see Gone Girl, a movie that makes marriage look like The Hunger Games with slightly more alleged sodomy. Writer Gillian Flynn, adapting her own novel, filters...

more »

Swimming in the Laika

From Ray Harryhausen’s Medusa to Henry Selick’s Jack Skellington, stop-motion animation is just frickin’ cool, yo. Maybe it’s the meticulous nature of the art form, with each tiny gesture by a...

more »

The Dies That Bind

“Hilarious!” say the trailers! “Really funny!” says the poster. “You are all sick people!” says me.

Yes, in parts, The Skeleton Twins is amusing. This is because stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig...

more »

Advanced Search