Spring-Breakers-movie

Like Lena Dunham’s character on Girls, Harmony Korine seems to want to be the voice of a generation. He quasi-succeeded in 1995 with his game-changing script for Kids, in which the then-teen prodigy profiled a specific segment of urban youth, already feeling the neglect of the lower 99% at the height of the Clinton “Golden Age”. Now that he’s 40, it’s the disenfranchised millennials that he’s interested in, though they could easily be his children. Unfortunately, this dynamic prevents Spring Breakers from ever taking off. Despite a few pleasant surprises in the cast and some serious visual flair, it feels like a tired retread of 90’s MTV.

Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are three bad girls attending college in some nebulously southern podunk town, where they yearn for the bright lights of spring break in Florida. Though not nearly as wild, their sweet, Jesus-fearing bestie, Faith (Selena Gomez), also wants to get out and start living life. Unfortunately, the girls lack the funds to join the party, so they hatch a scheme to rob a Chicken Shack. Equipped with nothing more than ski masks and water guns, the diminutive nymphets succeed, and it’s not long before they’ve rounded up Faith, hopped on the bus, and pelvic-thrusted their way down to “Paradise.” Once in St. Pete’s, their partying is muffled by the pesky cops. But James Franco’s wily wannabe gang-banger is there to bail them out. Of course, his friendship does not come without a price.

Honestly though, who cares what that price is? By the time the girls discover the downside of being ride-or-die bitches, we’ve been so saturated with gyrating booties, slow-mo bouncing breasts, and the word spring break that it’s hard to care. Korine seems to only superficially understand this world, leading to an awkward tone deafness that reeks of a creepy, unhip dad bothering his daughter and her hot friends in the backyard pool with a video camera.

The four leads are supposed to be best friends since childhood, but this is only shown through Cinemax-style lesbian-lite affection. They’re jaded by our culture’s proliferation of sex and violence and unable to cash the checks their nubile bodies write, but that doesn’t explain their actions. Faith gives soliloquies about utopia and things going wrong like she’s in The Lord of the Flies, but are we really supposed to believe that she thinks spring break means a ticket to a better life? This is the listless generation who worship Britney Spears’s feckless little-girl-lost-meets-sex-kitten shtick, but even these hoes would aim a little higher than being groupies to Franco’s third rate wannabe G; at least cartel girls in Miami.

I see how the director felt stunt casting might distract us, but the decision is not completely made in vain. The most pleasant surprise is Gomez. Equipped with an angelic face not yet rid of baby fat, she captures her character’s innocence lost while imbuing her with the only complex emotions on screen. This young actress is one to watch. So is Ashley Benson, who has a natural tough yet wounded appeal that gives her fluff character some real grit. Vanessa Hudgens looks pretty and certainly knows how to give a come-hither look, while Franco,clearly having fun, is at times a hoot, but as with Oz, flounders when forced to show un-ironic sweetness. What ever happened to the Jimmy of Pineapple Express?

Benoit Debie, famed cinematographer behind Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible and Enter The Void, is brought on to capture this ritual in all of it’s baccanalistic glory. Unfortunately, the saturation of neon and florescent colors do little more than add to the tired 90’s Hype Williams feel. The gorgeously swampy sunsets of Florida’s gulf coast are utilized to beautiful effect, but can’t save this mess by the time Franco and the gang start singing Britney Spears’s Everytime. Other than that, crunk jams and EDM blast throughout, and in case you don’t realize that things are getting bad, the sound of a gun reloading is as ever-present as the young actresses’ skin; which is a bit disturbing in a post-Aurora movie theater setting.

Hearing so much about how Korine has evolved and matured, even since 2009’s dark Trash Jumpers, I was truly excited to see him finally fulfill his early promise. Unfortunately, Spring Breakers does not do that. Attempting to sum up the fears and frustrations of a lost generation, it runs about as deep as a Flo Rida video. If you really want to be entertained by Harmony Korine, save your money and watch YouTube clips of his early Letterman appearances.