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SXSW 2013 Review: Harmony Korine’s ‘Spring Breakers’
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SXSW Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers
Director: Harmony Korine
Screenwriter: Harmony Korine
Cast: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane

“Pretend like it’s a video game…”

Holy. Shit. Throw Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive into a blender with ice and add a few gallons of bottom shelf booze and you’ve got the cinematic mindfuck that is Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers.

No offense to Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead, but Spring Breakers felt like the real “event” film of the festival this year. Korine’s dangerous, hypnotic cocktail of self-indulgence is a shallow study of shallow things.

Spring Breakers follows four college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who fund their Spring Break vacation by robbing a mom-and-pop restaurant at gunpoint. After a non-stop odyssey of sex, drugs, and violence, the girls hit a roadblock when they are arrested on drug charges.

Hungover and clad only in skimpy swimsuits, the girls are bailed out unexpectedly by Alien (James Franco), an infamous gangster (and rapper) who takes them under his wing and introduces them to a seedy, sleazy underworld of mayhem and madness.

Hypnotic. Dangerous. Wreckless. Those are a few words that came to mind while watching Korine’s entrancing film. Spring Breakers feels like some kind of hallucination brought upon by cocaine, dubstep, and drinking that liquid inside of glow sticks. The film itself feels intoxicated – from the deep dark blacks to the sultry neon fluorescence, to the body glitter and smeared mascara, the images are soaked in a mind-altering substance, drowning in excess and indulgence.

Korine’s grimy, sleazy images are accompanied by a score composed by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez (Drive), which creates a super-saturated, pulsating experience. The ladies (Gomez, Hudgens, Benson, and Harmony’s wife, Rachel Korine) are fantastic as bad girls with nothing to lose. Of course, there are more virtuous characters (Gomez) who can’t hack it and go back home, but Hudgens and Benson step up to Alien’s level and become suburban white terrorists with nothing to lose – they are without fear, and constantly in power – and they’re quite terrifying actually. The four young actresses all turn in great performances – and this is a definite turning point in their careers, breaking the Disney Family mold and turning toward more adult roles.

Franco’s Alien (a reference to white rapper Riff Raff) is obviously the comedic high point of the film – and it’s fascinating to watch him to commit to such a bizarre character and manage to actually convince you he’s a cornrow-wearing, grill-having, thug-ass baller with machine guns and nunchuks and shit (shee-yit). Minutes after the screening, Alien was already a quote-worthy character as several moviegoers could be heard repeating various bits of dialogue: “Look at all my shee-yit!” – “Spring Break, Ya’ll” – “Ya’ll My Soulmates” – Franco’s absurd gangster with a soft spot will be remembered even if Korine’s film slips into cult obscurity.

So, let’s get to the bottom line here: Spring Breakers is an intriguing, subversive film. Obviously, Korine has a lot to say about America and more specifically, this current crop of teenagers and twenty-somethings who could potentially be more dangerous in their lack of priorities and responsibilities than the most ardent gangbangers.

The problem is, I’m not sure Spring Breakers will catch on with mainstream audiences. Sure at a festival like SXSW, where the audience is filled with film press, industry insiders, and movie buffs, everyone’s in on the joke – they understand the irony and the themes Korine is working with – but to the casual moviegoer, Spring Breakers will no doubt be misunderstood and the message will be lost somewhere between 19-year-old guys high-fiving over all the ass-and-titties shaking around on screen.

In any case, I would absolutely urge you to go see this movie and look closely and think about the images – the characters – and draw your own conclusions about what this film is saying. You may not like the answers. You may be shocked, offended, and even angry – but at least you’ll feel something.

Trailer

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