directed by Harmony Korine
A little over 2 years ago, while still trying wash the cosmic grime of Trash Humpers off my psyche, I was mulling over Larry Clark’s Kids and wondering why I continued to subject myself to Harmony Korine’s filmic fits. I’ve always thought of Korine as something of a poser, a clumsy shock artist who shows us ugliness not to provoke, but simply because. Posturing might be closest to the word I’m looking for. And at this point, you either love and defend Harmony’s canon (with dubious evidence, though I will concede the Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely are wonderfully shot), or you hate him and his body of work (something I can completely understand). For better or worse, I have managed to expose myself to nearly all of his films (feature length, that is) with as open a mind as possible, though my nerves were ever on edge as I braced for the inevitable onslaught of ill-conceived grotesquery. But I’ll be damned if Spring Breakers didn’t almost make a believer out of me. I told myself before watching it that his vile opus to suburban youth would either be the final nail in the coffin, or it would be his finest work, a disgusting mirror propped against the collective acceptance of youthful stupidity and thoughtlessness via the oblivious “kids will be kids” endorsement of such excess. It’s a neon banger of a nightmare Korine has cooked up for us, a Heart of Darkness by way of MTV gone wild hedonism. Four college girls hold up a fried chicken joint to fund their raucous spring break and, once beachside, take up with a local rapper and criminal. What’s terrifying is not how easy it is for the main characters (amazingly, vacuously played by Hudgens, Gomez, Benson and Korine) to descend down the rabbit hole of violence in the film, it’s how easy it is for us to believe. Our anchor in this storm is as unlikely a figure as you’re sure to find anywhere, a braided, be-grilled scumbag rapper by the name of Alien, played to- I’m not sure what’s beyond perfection- by James Franco. Franco’s Alien is a pure being if there ever was one, a man who does exactly as he says and makes no bones about his perception of the world. As he takes the girls on a tour of his house after springing them from the clink, his “look at my shit” swagger crystallizes the American Dream into a thing of horrible clarity. Never in a million years would I dream that I would be singing the praises of a scene in which James Franco sings a Britney Spears song while playing a white grand piano on the beach, but what a scene it was! I spoke about the beauty of cycles in Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyondthe Pines, and Korine utilizes his own version of cycles in Spring Breakers to lull us into the dream, mainly through pieces of dialogue. Cinematographer Benoit Debie gives the film a candy coated sheen that harkens back to elements of the visually tremendous but tortuously overwrought Enter the Void. After the explosive, fluorescent climax, after the credits, after you lay your head down on your soft, clean pillow, Franco’s mantra will lope through your mind’s darkness, haunting you. “Spring break. Spring break. Spring break forever.” It really is a thing to behold, though not a film for everyone, and if you allow yourself to hypnotized by Korine this time around, you may find that he managed to give you more than you bargained for.