Harmony Korine is not a subtle man. His movies are violent. His movies are lewd. His movies are raw, over the top, and vulgar. Korine’s newest film – “Spring Breakers“—is all of these rolled into a single, hour and a half long critique on temptation, college life, and the actions of our misguided youth.
“Spring Breakers” opens with a three-minute music video of sorts depicting the ultimate Spring Break beach vacation. In the mind of Korine, this picturesque Spring Break is comprised of overwhelming amounts of cheap beer, bronzed bodies, and topless women. The narrative then jumps from a frat kid’s picture of happiness, to the miserable lives of four college students (Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, and Rachel Korine) who can’t afford the St. Petersburg trip of their dreams. With nothing to look forward to at their campus, and a whole world of opportunity awaiting them in Florida, the girls decide to give armed robbery the old college try. With a few fistfuls of cash in each hand, the girls head to Florida and join their classmates in alcohol and drug fueled debauchery. When the local cops bust a motel party, all four girls watch as their college fantasy bleeds into a real world nightmare.
This brief synopsis is the G-version of what actually happens in Korine’s newest movie. “Spring Breakers” is as hard as hard-R gets. It contains a tremendous amount of nudity, explicit language, and excessive violence. Its narrative is basically a MPAA’s worst nightmare. Frankly, the amount of R-worthy violence and sexuality Korine is able to get away with is a testament to the director and everyone else who must have fought very, very hard to keep the film as gritty as possible. But hey, whenever James Franco plays a gangbanging rapper who only cares about, “bikinis and butts”, and the modern equivalent of the Mickey Mouse Club decide to shed their virgin, angelic facades for personalities prone to sex, drugs, and violence, there’s bound to be at least a little coke involved, right?
But to really understand “Spring Breakers,” however, one must step back almost 20 years. At the tender age of 19, Harmony Korine wrote the screenplay for the Palme d’Or nominated film “Kids”, a gritty look inside the mentality of a group of New York teenagers growing up in the ‘90s. “Kids” – much like ‘Spring Breakers’ – was a reflection on youth culture at the time. HIV, sexual experimentation, and the effects of Post-Ragan censorship caused the youth of the time to rebel in certain ways. For Korine, it was easy to translate these moral dilemmas from life to screen because he was young enough to witness and feel them every day.
Fast-forwarding 18 years, Harmony Korine is now a bit more removed from the problems facing America’s youth. He is now 40, and is about as aware of what’s going on inside the minds of 18-something college kids as their own parents are. So, for a movie written and directed by the same guy that brought “Kids” to the screen, ‘Spring Breakers’ is very much a different type of movie.
Yes, the plot and structure of “Spring Breakers” mirrors his previous work. Long, disjointed monologues that flow from scene to scene, incredibly visceral aerial tracking shots from longtime Cinematographer Benoit Debie (Enter the Void), and a story that does not take place singularly in the present, but rather meanders through the past, present, and future lives of each character. All of these products of mise-en-scene may appear to give Korine’s film just the right amount of flair to provide accreditation to the gross-out violence and sexuality that takes place on screen, but in the end, they really do not.
When Korine set out to make this film he did so with a singular image in mind: “girls in bikinis with guns.” “Spring Breakers” is a great movie if you like mindless entertainment. It is overflowing with cheap beer fueled antics but, like at every college party, leaves you feeling hungover at the end.
By David Morris