Imagine if Charlie had grown up in the wrong neighbourhood, surrounded by drugs and illegal weapons, constantly fighting for survival against ruthless gang leaders. Imagine him getting down and dirty with his Angels, having threesomes in the pool and ordering them to carry out executions instead of investigations. Imagine him with dreadlocks, tattoos, silver teeth and geeky sunglasses, and you will end up with Spring Breakers. A beautiful movie that is as hollow as the young girls who star in it.
Oh, and it is very beautiful. It is directed by Harmony Korine (if you’re thinking it’s a woman, don’t worry, I did too), who fills his frame with bright colours and neon lights. Everything glows in fantastic primary colours. Sometimes even secondary ones creep their way into the shot; I recall a pink-lit bridge. Some scenes are bathed in greens, some in orange, some in blue. Even the dark nighttime scenes have a strong presence of colour. The characters move slowly, sometimes by themselves, sometimes because they’re in slow-motion. They drink a lot of beer and take a lot of drugs. Their world is more fuzzy than clear, so perhaps they see what we see — colours in slow-motion. The movie is so alive visually that I can’t help but wonder why it feels so dead narratively.
We have four main characters. I refuse to call them heroines, or even antiheroines, because they do nothing to deserve such titles. In fact, they are more like villains. Misguided and deluded. They are Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine), and Faith (Selena Gomez). Faith, as her name suggests, is the only “good” one because she believes in God and goes to church. Maybe she’s supposed to be our heroine. They live very normal lives; they go to school, pretend to be listening to their lecturer, hang out in each other’s houses, etc. But they believe their lives are meant for something more.
Spring break, baby!
Their plan is to head down to Florida, where all the topless girls and sex-crazy teenagers are, and find themselves — “This is what life is all about”. But there’s a problem. They don’t have enough money. So the three unholy girls of the group rob a diner and present their hard-earned cash to the holy one, much to her dismay. It doesn’t take long, though, for her friends’ dirty talk (“Smelling this money makes my pussy wet”) and underwear to quickly convince her that they’ve got it made. Now they’re on their way to the beaches and snorting sessions, and the soul-searching can begin.
Korine films these scenes as if he regrets never having a spring break like the one our four girls go to. There is so much beer, so many bongs, so much coke, so much boob, so much shouting and cheering and yelling, so much skin and so much sand, so much jumping and reprehensible behaviour, that after about half an hour, I was beginning to think I had somehow travelled back to the start of the movie and was watching everything all over again, but with less enthusiasm. It goes round and round in endless circles. Shots of the girls, shots of boobs and partying, shots of the girls repeating past lines, shots of the girls, shots of boobs and partying…
And then Korine gives us a saviour. James Franco. He plays Alien, the only white boy in a black neighbourhood — “Check out my shit!”. He’s a rapper by day and a drug and arms dealer by night. He also has a habit of robbing spring breakers. To cut a long story short, he takes our four girls under his wing and introduces them to the high life. Two of the girls fall in love with him (or his teeth), and the other two return to their home town after witnessing scary things. I won’t tell you which two stay and which two leave. And then the movie ends with a shootout.
Korine has created a dazzling world here that doesn’t fail to excite our eyes. It has the glam and gaudy repugnancy of booze and drugs, and the four girls, who spend 90% of the movie in skin-tight bikinis, never fail to look sexy, even with their neon pink balaclavas. They are deadly girls; unafraid to lure you in with their looks and then force you to your knees. When the climactic shootout arrives, and the girls don their masks and yellow bikinis, you know that image will stay with you for a long time. What won’t stay with you are the gratuitous shots of partying, the shallow storytelling, and the irredeemable characters. I think I prefer Charlie’s Angels.
Best Moment | The threesome in the pool.
Worst Moment | Faith crying her eyes out to her girls, saying “I don’t feel comfortable. I want to go home.”, while they just stroke her hair and look at her. Umm, aren’t you going to be more supportive?