Spring Breakers: Disney Girls Gone Wild

April 1, 2013 12:00 am0 comments
Laura Boland

While vacation may be over for many college students, the allure of partying spring break away on a beach in Florida still lingers. This is the atmosphere that Spring Breakers seeks to capture with unexpected twists. It begins with four friends, Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), who are desperate to trade their dorm rooms for poolside parties, but can’t come up with the funds for the trip to St. Petersburg.  So three of the girls, Brit, Candy and Cotty, come up with a scheme to rob a local fast-food joint.  They manage to carry out their plan using squirt guns, hammers and a stolen car and soon after, the four girls depart for Florida. Their spring break is a haze of alcohol-soaked parties — that is, until all four are arrested in connection to their drugging and party habits. Luckily for the girls, Alien (James Franco), a self-proclaimed gangsta and hustler, pays their fines and takes care of them. But Alien has his own schemes, which the girls quickly and willingly become involved in.  

Spring Breakers demonstrates director Harmony Korine’s fascination with contemporary young adult culture, which becomes exaggerated to the point of absurdity. Korine uses the same slow-motion shots of semi-nude men and women cavorting on the beach, consuming impossible quantities of alcohol and jiggling every possible body part for the camera over and over again.  Apparently it is possible to create a makeshift bong out of a baby doll.  The only time the girls are not wearing something strappy is when they are wearing sweats with ‘DTF’ emblazoned on the back, Nikes and pink masks with unicorns stitched on top.  These outfits don’t exactly propel the girls to M.I.A. levels of badass, but it certainly seems like Korine embraces this kind of Nicki Minaj look as powerful.  

The film itself is a candy store of color.  Almost everything that can be neon is; it’s almost like Korine was trying to make Florida one giant dance club. Combined with a stellar soundtrack courtesy of Skrillex, Spring Breakers feels at times like an extended music video. Behind the slick, ultra-stylized cinematography, Korine borrows some of the techniques of fellow art-house director Terrence Malick.  The recursive close-up shots of the girls’ faces and the disembodied voice overs allow the characters’ emotions to rise through the surreal surroundings without being forced. In the amoral landscape of the girls’ exploits, Korine proves there is still some humanity — and showcases this quite nicely.  

It was quite intentional that Korine drew his cast from the roster of former Disney Channel stars. The actresses’ presence in the film alone would have been enough to make his point.  Each of the main characters is not given many features to distinguish her from the group except for Gomez’s Faith, who is defined by her tepid Christian faith. Gomez, Hudgens, Korine and Benson all convincingly manage be both careless young girls fooling around on scooters and volatile, brutal criminals, and deliver mature performances.  Franco’s Alien is a delightfully unexpected character. From his grills to his gold pot leaf necklace, from the $ tattoo on his neck to the BALLR license plate on his custom car, Alien reeks of cliché.  Franco’s performance, however, allows Alien to be both creepy and consoling when he interacts with the girls, and the relationship Alien later builds with Brit and Candy is full of subtle power plays.  Franco brings out the darkness in Alien, who played by anyone else would have been a harmless wannabe.  

Spring Breakers is genuinely enjoyable and funny. While it tries to be many things, it never takes itself too seriously (as my favorite scene, in which the four girls join Alien on his patio to sing “Everytime” by Britney Spears, while Alien plays a white grand piano and the girls dance in circles with masks and shotguns like gangster nymphs, illustrates). It is an engaging take on the old cliché of ‘girls gone wild,’ and will be enjoyed even after spring break ends.  

 

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