As the ending credits of Spring Breakers popped up on the screen, a woman sitting behind me exclaimed, "What the hell did I just watch?"
Spring Breakers is an ambient, yet visceral trip of pop culture explosion. I cannot think of a more accurate representation of the movie than how director Harmony Korine described it at SXSW.
wanted to make a film that was electronic music – loop based. It was
closer to micro-scenes or liquid narrative, where the movie became like a
blast of time. I wanted it to be an assault or a violent pop song –
with choruses or repetition. Closer to a drug experience. We got in
there and started deconstructing images and sounds. You just go with the
The film has a free-flowing energy that reminds me of a creative essay - making narrative refrains, and spastic jumps. It's driven by impressions, and far left from traditional cinema. But despite this, the plot is actually fairly simple.
Four lifelong friends, Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine), attend the same college, and have grown tired of the monotonous college lifestyle. They plan a spring break trip to Florida, but are short on cash. So Candy, Brit, and Cotty decide to rob the local chicken shack dressed in ski masks, armed with squirt guns that look convincingly like real guns. The operation goes on without a hitch, and they are soon partying Girls Gone Wild status down in the sunshine state. Their fun hits a sudden halt when they are arrested for drug charges.
This is where they attract the attention of Alien (James Franco), a hustling gangster/rapper who pays their fines and frees them from two more days in prison. The girls take a liking to Alien's rather luxurious lifestyle, and end up getting sucked into a turf war between Alien and a rival gangster Archie (Gucci Mane).
The casting of Disney stars (Gomez and Hudgens) and star of teen drama Pretty Little Liars (Benson) is more for their pop culture status than acting chops. The film exploits excessive shock value with these girls. And after scenes of Gomez and Hudgens taking hits from bongs, it's safe to assume that there's no going back to Mickey Mouse land.
The film takes on a disturbingly sad overtones, especially when we realize that the only ambitions these girls have is to party, get wasted, be objectified, and steal money. The only person who shows an ounce of a redeeming quality is Faith, whose name is a bit too on the nose. She's very Christian and tries to be the voice of reason among her three hard-partying friends. She exits early on, and is the first to hop back on the bus to school.
Really, if we are being honest though, the actor that this film belongs to is James Franco. His performance, or the maybe the more appropriate term would be transformation, as the Floridian gangster hustler/rapper Alien is an uncanny reminder that he can be magnetizing and lots of fun to watch on screen. The film's best moments are when he's on screen.
When he gives a tour of his pad, a mansion that would put celebrity homes featured on MTV Cribs to shame, he rattles of his possessions with childlike glee: automatic rifles hang on the walls, Scarface plays on a continuous loop, designer shorts, T-shirts and cologne. To Alien, this is the American Dream.
The two scenes that will receive the most attention involve Alien giving fellatio to not one but two pistol barrels. The scene is a twisting emotional roller coaster in itself. The other has Alien singing Briney Spears' "Everytime" at a white grand piano as the girls dance with pink unicorn ski masks and AK-47s in front of a gorgeous Florida sunset. This sequence transitions into a surreal, brilliantly-executed montage of Alien and the girls robbing people at arcades. These two moments are worth the price of admission alone.