If not for the clever-clever touch of Harmony Korine, you could be mistaken for thinking that Spring Breakers, from the trailer, is a moral panic movie along the lines of Reefer Madness or Scarface. It certainly plays that way in the flesh (pardon the pun) – nearly nude teenage girls get so swept up in the spring break drug that they knock off the local fried chicken shack and get the first coach outta there. Who could blame them?
Faith is the good Christian swept along by a three girl criminal tide – her ex-kindergarten friends Candy, Brit and Cotty – and experiences something of a spiritual awakening on the trip, while the rest of the group just want to get high. Korine’s fantastic eye and his sense for both casual surrealism and hyper-reality means that Spring Breakers is probably his most conventionally accomplished film, and the one that makes the most narrative sense, while still retaining the characteristic Korine touches that we’ve come to know and love.
The arrival of James Franco‘s Alien, a drug dealer with a southern slur as pronounced as his love of his “shit”, signals the beginning of the end for the girls, but he also provides most of the film’s best moments – a fantastic example is an impromptu rendition of a Britney Spears song, while the girls writhe around him with guns and the already iconic pink bomber masks, as is his “look at my shit” monologue. The way his relationship with the girls develops even as they decrease in number is another interesting aspect to the film, as it would have been so easy to cast the girls as victims and Alien as a predator. While this may be partially true, it’d be wrong to suggest that there’s not some level of intimidation that Alien feels in the presence of these girls. Intimidation, or awe.
The problem is that for vast stretches of the film, nothing happens. We hear phone conversations from the girls to their parents two or three times, and the same few beach shots over and over again. We get it – they like spring break. It’s fun. Do we need to hear that over and over again? And again? Most of the dialogue is completely awful, but Korine’s cinematography makes up for it. His camera may linger for slightly too long on the girls, but I expect that sense of unease is intentional. Probably.
If you’re expecting Reservoir Dogs‘ levels of tension and action, then you will be disappointed. More robberies, more action, and more blood would have been fantastic. It’s half a film, and you come away feeling that there’s a really good forty five minutes in there.