Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane, Heather Morris | Written and Directed by Harmony Korine
Harmony Korine’s latest effort Spring Breakers is a film which should somewhat put him on the map of the wider film-watching consciousness Rather than being an effort which seeks to titillate or excite, something the marketing bods behind it are selling it as for obvious reasons, it’s a film which fits into Korine’s particular style of storytelling through montage and sound design while also boasting an incendiary performance from James Franco, a man who can star in a Disney film in one month and what is virtually an anti-Disney film in the next.
This is a mood inherent to the film right from the start, music begins pounding and we are treated to repeated images of Spring Breakers partying and doing the things they do, reminding one more of Piranha 3D than anything “arthouse” to start with but we are quickly made aware that this will be something quite different. the day glo aesthetic gets more and more sinister, audio drops repeat themselves, lines of dialogue almost audibly morphing into the music and harsh cuts away from the montages on show, complete with the sound of a gun loading its chamber or the image of a girl peeing in the street tell us that things are not going to be fun and frivilous for long.
Indeed, without even the aura of Franco’s character in the film, three of the girls commit a very serious crime, all of them refer to each other in fairly derogatory terms and while not all of the group go down the dark path fully, you can’t ever say they are all purely “innocent” which is an interesting choice for sure but one that shows that Korine knows we don’t want the usual fall from grace arc as expected, indeed as the film goes on it’s made clearer that the girls aren’t even the focus, and this is where James Franco comes in.
Apparently based on a real-life rapper/man of dubious means, Franco’s Alien is a force of nature, a man running entirely on the hubris of someone with a lot of money and a lot of guns, one who is an awful lot of talk, and maybe not a lot of trousers though thanks to Franco’s spellbinding way, the latter doesn’t rear its head all that much. No, instead the sense is given that Korine just let Franco play, do his own thing and have those around him respond to it. Two standout scenes spring to mind, oft-talked about elsewhere (though they are SPECTACULAR), but even the little things bear this out, Alien’s looking at Selena Gomez’s face, and hilarious shaking his head like a peacock showing its feathers being an example which strikes only a few minutes after his first appearance.
That Franco is so good does somewhat dampen the effect the girls have but then, they aren’t ever really developed past where they are at the start of the film. Some could, and have, argue that this is inherent in a film which is essentially empty but Korine has never been all that interested in characters actually developing, instead he is a “slice of life” filmmaker and while this has the bare bones of a plot, it is more about the party, the highs of such and then the comedown and Korine works this magnificently well.
Spring Breakers is one of the standout films of the year so far and likely will be come 2013′s end. A visceral but insanely entertaining piece of work, it’s one of Korine’s best and for a man whose made some wonderfully satisfying work, this is extremely heartening indeed.
Spring Breakers is in cinemas across the UK now.