Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Spring Breakers

Where: On the sofa
What: Crime drama
Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco

Until Spring Breakers, director Harmony Korine was best known for writing teensploitation drama Kids. In 1995 the movie about a group of NYC teens “enjoying” a lost day of sex, drugs, violence and theft shocked many adult filmgoers. The youth of the day shrugged while Korine left behind the skate parks to become a director of interesting indie oddities like Gummo.

Nearly two decades later, Korine has come back to where he began with a frenetic rites of passage movie. The plot, such as it is, sees four boisterous high school girls plan a trip to Florida for their spring break. Lacking the money to have the sort of fun they want in the sunshine state, three of the girls snort cocaine and rob a diner with sledgehammers and water pistols to fund the trip.

The four soon settle in to the Florida spring break party scene, which is either paradise or hell, depending on your age and interest in partying. Scantily clad teens, wild drinking and drug-taking figure highly. British teens and early-twenty somethings don’t have a direct comparison and prefer to pursue intoxication all-year round, but the nearest equivalent is the annual summer rush to the Balearic and Canary Islands. Besides, there can’t be too many viewers on this side of the Atlantic who are not familiar with the concept of spring break from MTV or Family Guy/American Dad parodies.

Cops inevitably break up the party and our four anti-heroines played by former Disney TV stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens; Ashley Benson, and Harmony’s wife, Rachel Korine are hauled in front of a judge on drug charges. Druglord Alien pays the girls’ bail, but introduces the unruly quartet into a life of gangster squabbles that soon turns sour.

Some viewers will hate Spring Breakers. It’s trashy, slight and ridiculous but could easily become a cult hit. One gets the feeling John Waters would enjoy it, but fair enough. Based on his past work, Korine certainly enjoys Waters’ work, too.

Swathes of the film are little more than a slightly risqué music video. Many scenes are bathed in sleazy red and blue lights, others have acres of bare flesh, moshing jocks and an energetic Skrillex soundtrack. The structure slips around with flashbacks, flashforwards and repeated gunshot sound effects, voiceovers and lines of dialogue. Such cunning narrative trickery and audio-visual stylistic flourishes are disorientating and perhaps Korine’s attempt to make the audience feel they’re on their own woozy spring break.

Acting will not be what the film is remembered for, yet Benson and Hudgens as Brit and Candy are excitingly unafraid and amoral, while James Franco’s Alien is a must-watch. Part Bobby Peru from Wild At Heart, part gangster-rapper turned Tony Montana, his dodgy business dealings help the final act unspool in spectacular fashion.

Those searching for meaning won’t care much for Spring Breakers, but fans of fast, punchy party films like Go, Human Traffic and The Rules of Attraction will find plenty to love here.