Movie Review: 'Spring Breakers' -- 2.5 stars
Written and directed by Harmony Korine
Starring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens
Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" begins with slow-motion images of shirtless men and gyrating women, spraying booze and bopping up and down to the dubstep "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" by Skrillex. It's familiar spring break revelry that seems even more nihilistic when underlined by sinister dance music.
The sequence encapsulates the film as a whole, which is in some ways an unusual project for Korine, who specializes in offbeat, micro-budget films about corrupted youths. In other ways, though, it's perfectly consistent with an oeuvre that includes the screenplay for "Kids."
It's the story of four college women (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who abandon their monotonous lives for a spring break trip to St. Petersburg, Fla., that's funded by an armed robbery. Once there, they fall under the spell of a cornrowed, grills-sporting gangster-rapper played with inspired energy by Franco. Serious criminality ensues.
The movie has gotten a lot of attention because of Gomez and Hudgens, one-time Disney starlets embarking on some boundary-pushing terrain. But the film is much less edgy than its marketing campaign would have you believe.
Korine, who wrote and directed, is ostensibly satirizing the dark heart of the superficial subset of youth culture that would so desperately want to embark on a booze-, sex- and drug-fueled spring break.
Portraying this stuff in an outsized fashion is not the same as truly subverting it, though. With its violence, copious drug use, threesomes and scenes of the women in tiny bikinis, the movie revels in the debauchery without saying much about it. And the film isn't ridiculous enough to qualify as great trash. Put another way, we don't need Harmony Korine to point out the awfulness of spring break culture. It does that to itself.