Harmony Korine’s latest offering, a crime drama which he both wrote and directed, is a film that is hard to place. Although not known for the most commercially-geared and “regular” cinematic pieces, Korine’s intention behind the 93 minutes of Spring Breakers is never clear, begging the question as to whether it actually has a point, or if it simply represents the reckless, greedy, selfish hedonism that it so unashamedly depicts. If the latter is correct, it succeeds tremendously.
The film delves head first in to territory common and overused for its genre, with drug use, drunken college parties, and the violent gang culture of Miami featuring heavily. Thematically, this allows for the main cast’s youthful hijinks and disregard for their futures to take hold, though we do not get to see their induction into this underworld, as to them it is shown to be old hat. We are also not privy to any motivation behind their actions, with the interiority of the characters never properly explored.
The only exception to this is James Franco’s portrayal of the drug-dealing, gang-warring rapper, Alien, for whom we see some morsel of back story as he recounts his upbringing and introduces the young partiers to his feud with another gangster, Archie. It becomes unclear as to whether Alien is meant to be comical, or a menacing devil, an embodiment of vice and immorality. This ambiguity is not helped by the casting choice itself. Franco’s reputation for having his finger in every artistic pie arouses curiosity as to why he took on the role. Nonetheless, his performance is well executed and engaging, swinging randomly between sinister, endearing and, at times, loving.
As for the fun-loving female quartet, there is little to like or even care for, as the disengaged turn of Vanessa Hudgens as the criminally minded Candy cannot help but suggest that the former Disney child is only there to try and hurriedly “grow up’”. Selena Gomez, however, surprises in her portrayal of Faith, with the character’s Christianity and natural timidity giving her a multi-faceted and believable personality. An intense, decisive, and closely shot scene between Faith and Alien demonstrates Gomez’s solid acting chops, and redeems the picture somewhat from the emptiness which too often threatens the viewing experience.
The score, composed and arranged by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex, doesn’t help the film’s undertone of trying a bit too hard to be seen as cool and edgy, but fits well with the debauchery of certain scenes. The film is greatly helped by often-brilliant cinematography and an intriguing treatment of chronology. Prophetic gunshots sound throughout the picture, creating the right amount of suspense needed before the final denouement. However, it is a shame that this conclusion is inconclusive, the fates of all but Alien remaining unknown and the film ending as it began: with the audience knowing the characters no better than they did after the first five minutes.
It could be an exploration of the base flaws in humanity, or an ironic view of modern youths, and as such some will appreciate what Spring Breakers is trying to do. While praising it would be careless, to avoid it would also be mightily wrong.