The bright sun glistens off the shimmering blue water as the warm sand squishes between your toes. Laughter and joyful screams fill the air. The beer funnel is full again, and you're up next. "Woooo!" echoes throughout the beach. Smiles surround you and everyone is inviting. This is Spring Break. This is the dream.
But as all dreams do, it's sure to come to an abrupt end. Blinding lights and neon swimwear can only last so long before the harsh world comes bounding upon you. How far would you go to make it last? What would you be willing to do to enjoy Spring Break forever? These are just a few of the questions Harmony Korine posits in Spring Breakers, a study on the youth culture today and how amoral and corrupt just having fun can become.
Korine's nonlinear editing is a thing of genius here and drives the film on. The constant foreshadowing and hints of the future assure that the tension never lets up and the view is never able to be at ease. Something isn't right here. Even through all the partying, something darker lies just beneath the surface. It will not be all laughter and smiles. Something will go very wrong. This only becomes truer as the film unfolds. Korine uses erratic dubstep music and quick cuts to illustrate the ever decomposing attention span of today's youth, then slowly eases the film into a more lingering and abstract statement on the moral decay of society at large.
Selena Gomez and Rachel Korine do well with what they have to work with. Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and James Franco, however, knock their parts out of the park; Hudgens and Franco in particular.
Hudgens' Candy is so disconnected from reality that when a friend who she's known since kindergarten expresses fear for their lives and wants to return home, her first instinct is to roll her eyes. Her continuous finger gun shooting is very telling. She wants to "have fun" and do whatever she wants no matter the cost. Life to her is a video game. A movie. Drugs, alcohol, mindless robbing, unlimited money, and no consequences. Sound familiar? Almost like a description for the newest Grand Theft Auto video game. This is her reality. She sees girls making out with other girls, dancing sexily, and considers it edgy; her reaction is to gyrate around and scream in joy. It's not the act that excites her; it's the fact that some might perceive it as scandalous. Money excites her because it signifies power. She becomes aroused in the presence of money several times throughout the film. Of all the girls she is the one who seems most accepting of Alien (Franco) and his lifestyle. She doesn't betray any emotion when another character, Cotty (Rachel Benson), is shot, either. Anything which detracts from the "fun" is considered an annoyance.
"I always wanted to be bad," says Franco's Alien in one of his more defining moments. Guns, drugs, money, and power are his American Dream. Alien's idea of having fun is robbing spring breakers and blowing tons of money at strip clubs. He is gangster rap fully realized and defined. He introduces himself to the girls as a "hustler" and a "rapper." It's rather important that he lists them in that order. It's as if being a rapper comes with the territory of being a hustler and plays second fiddle to it. The idea that all gangsters and hustlers are also rappers means he has to be one as well. Music is not his first love, and it's not why he causes chaos, either. He just wants to be bad, and rappers are "bad" so he must follow in their footsteps. Al Pacino's "Scarface" is the ultimate bad guy, so he plays the film on repeat in his house. His backstory, he says, is little more than the same old sob story we've all heard before. It doesn't matter. All that matters is being the worst guy he can be. There doesn't have to be a reason; that's his downfall, ultimately.
Spring Breakers is worth seeing for Franco's performance alone. Hudgens performance, Harmony Korine's brilliant direction, and hypersensual style are just the icing on the cake. I suspect subsequent viewings will reveal more layers of macabre and wonderment in this richly created experience.