Harmony Korine's ludicrously bad drama about four girls gone wild on spring break
Incoherent, brash and self-consciously 'arthouse' in execution, Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is an intriguing cinematic spectacle: an awful film that seems aware – nay, aggressively boastful – of its own awfulness. It follows a quartet of interchangeable starlets – including ex-Bieber crush Selena Gomez and High School Musical graduate Vanessa Hudgens, both looking to break out of the Disney ghetto – who embark on a hedonistic spring break adventure. Along the way they get involved with the golden-grilled Alien (James Franco, playing the bastard child of trash-pop diva Ke$ha and True Romance's rasta-pimp Drexl), whose obsession with booze, guns, drugs, bitches and money lead them on increasingly darker adventures.
Korine, who made his name writing Larry Clark's Kids and directing 2009 freakshow Trash Humpers, is clearly of the go-hard-or-go-home mould, and his dedication to pursuing his own singular artistic vision is awe-inspiring. With washes of neon colour, endless slow-mo breast montages, loops of repeating dialogue and out-of-sequence shots overlapping with the main narrative, he creates a surreal, immersive, uncompromising film-event. The use of Britney Spears' 'Everytime' at the film's peak (or nadir) nails the underlying message: this is a generation trying to express its existence through the dominant artforms of the time; if the artforms are inadequate – if Spears, poster girl for the deranged celebrity experience, is the best we've got – she'll have to do.
For all this grand artistic vision, Spring Breakers disappointingly pulls its punches: Gomez plays the least degenerate of her cohorts, and is safely removed from the narrative halfway through, when her character's corruption would have provided a more compelling and meaningful fulcrum. The pacing is mishandled as well: by choosing to repeatedly wallow in his own excess for minutes at a time, Korine is most likely confounding the 140 character attention spans of his target audience, the horde of frat-boys and valley girls waiting for something that will definitively articulate their materialistic and nihilistic impulses. Sadly, this ain't it.
Spring Breakers screened as the Glasgow Film Festival's Surprise Film. On general release from Fri 5 Apr.