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Movie Review: Spring Breakers

March 22, 2013
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Lest we forget, Harmony Korine is the guy who got his start writing Larry Clark’s Kids, a film whose characters drank, did drugs, had sex, beat up strangers — all very adult things — and was slapped with an NC-17 rating and a heap of controversy because its characters were all, well, kids. Eighteen years later, the kids aren’t much older, they engage in the same activities, and yet it’s a comedy.

Apparently Korine decided to write and direct a movie about Spring Break because he missed out on it in his youth. So why the sudden change of opinion? Is it because Spring Break is just that — a break from real life where we can expect, if not forgive, hedonistic expression and temporary neglect of duties and responsibilities? For the kids in Kids, every day of their lives was Spring Break, and if it’s the only thing you have in your life, its consequences are going to be catching up very soon. However wild the girls may go in Cancun, there’s at least some grudging respect for responsibility. Or maybe Korine is aging in reverse. At 18, when he wrote Kids, he was just coming out of his teens, and being that close to the source, he ws tired of it, ready to take it down. Now he looks back on it with a sense of nostalgia, trying to relive all those moments he missed out on, perhaps.

Whatever the reason, Spring Breakers is just a lot of fun,

The movie follows a group of four broke college girls, Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (AshleyBenson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine, Harmony’s wife) desperately eager to escape their boring lives on campus to party it up in Florida with other kids who probably can’t afford the getaway either. Short on cash, the latter three rob a local restaurant and take a bus down to the action, partying hard enough to get them locked up on a narcotics-possession charge. Fortunately one of their fellow party-goers works for the local drug kingpin Alien (James Franco, with a face that nearly defies recognition), who bails them out with the intent of making the four part of his harem.

The film could get away on looks alone, from the opening shots of a beach filled with hardbodies and booze on the brink of an orgy. Korine dwells on the sparsely covered bottoms and topless breasts like he’s making his own exploitation flick, switching from slow motion to video and scored by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex. The robbery is shot solely from the perspective of the getaway driver, coasting beside the building as we see the action play out within. Phone calls to mothers and families play with images in contrast to the words spoken, and just when it’s enough, Franco comes in and switches the genre to crime thriller. If Romain Gavras’s 2010 film Our Day Will Come is the Grand Theft Auto III of movies, this is easily the Vice City, right down to the flourescent pinks and yellows of cinematographer Benoit Debie.

In all, it’s dazzlingly watchable and teasingly funny. I don’t think Korine is wagging his finger to the audience in mocking his subjects, even though he passes judgment on them and takes their hedonism to the extreme; we all have our dirty little pleasures, be it Britney Spears or Scarface, and sometimes it’s okay to overindulge, so long as we remember that it’s not a good plan for life.

Rating: 4/5

Spring Breakers is rated R. Written and directed by Harmony Korine. Starring Selena Gomez, James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Heather Moriss, Ash Lendzion, Gucci Mane, and The ATL Twins.

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