David O Russell returns to his dark comedy roots with Silver Linings Playbook, while Harmony Korine goes to the beach in Spring Breakers.
By Harmony Korine's standards, Spring Breakers is practically a mainstream endeavor. For former Barney & Friends star Selena Gomez, perky High School Musical singer Vanessa Hudgens, and James Franco, there could not be a more surreally twisted career choice. That’s the odd dichotomy of Spring Breakers, a film walking a curious line between dark underground cult oddity and a trashy odd to sun soaked (stroked, and stoked) college beach party insanity.
It will probably be the widest watched and most easily accessible of Korine's catalogue of work and something to terrify every parent whose child adores the its bubblegum cast. Somehow Korine managed to wiggle himself into the fringes of the pop movie world and brought his anarchistic 'n' alienating ways along with him for a curiously entertaining romp about youthful escapism gone psychotically wrong.
Gomez, Hudgens, daytime soap veteran Ashley Benson, and Korine’s own wife Rachel star as a group of college girls from a boring town who want nothing more than to peel their cloths off, do drugs, and party over spring break. Hudgens is goody two-shoes Christian girl Faith and is the voice of reason for the other three girls who rob a seedy diner to pay for their trip.
Girls Gone Wild antics ensue, eventually landing group in a county jail for an out of control coke party. That’s the type of behavior that attracts the attention of local sleazeball criminal/wannabe rapper Alien (James Franco in a twisted and hilarious combination of Southern methhead gangsta and white rapper posturing). Alien scares off Gomez instantly, but the other girls are seduced by his dreadlocks, neck tattoos, gun collection, and 24-hour-a-day Scarface-watching ways. Soon they decide to become his bikini-clad henchwomen, robbing cash in ski masks and swimsuits, and sleeping in a nightly orgy. It’s certainly an exciting way to kill a spring break and also quite possibly a way to end that vacation in a hail of gunfire.
The film feels more like Larry Clark’s (for whom Korine wrote Kids and Ken Park) Another Day in Paradise than Korine's usual fair. It’s a good times crime odyssey shot in blown out vibrant colors that dips in and out of sleazy realism and graphic sexuality. The tragically dejected freak show mentality of Gummo is visible only around the edges, but the provocateur clearly enjoys ripping apart the squeaky clean images of his actors.
Gomez gets off lightest as the girl openly uncomfortable with the nasty behavior, while Hudgens and Benson revel in their machine gun roleplay and threesome sequences with joyful abandon. The stunt casting works in the context of cute corrupted college girls, while Franco was a surprisingly ingenious genius choice as the idiotic gangsta.
As proved in Pineapple Express, Franco has a knack for surreal comedic characterization and gleefully disappears into the role of a douchebag with a diamond grill and a gun. Filled with ironic booze, boobs, and booty filled montages, Spring Breakers is a tongue-in-cheek dark crime comedy at its core that will inevitably be misinterpreted by many, but is worth checking out if only to confirm that the movie was actually produced.
Read our full review here.