Spring Breakers: Is It Ironic Or Idiotic?

Director Harmony Korine doesn’t so much find controversy as invite it. Writer of the 1995 Larry Clark film Kids, which focused…

Dan Wakefield

Contributor

spring breakers

Director Harmony Korine doesn’t so much find controversy as invite it. Writer of the 1995 Larry Clark film Kids, which focused on a group of Manhattan teenagers during the AIDS crisis, he has become an enfant terrible on the indie circuit; while panels lavish awards upon him, audience members storm out of the screenings. Earlier works, such as 1999’s Julien Donkey- Boy, embraced the Dogme 95 manifesto with limited success while 2009’s Trash Humpers, setting up stall from the title alone, swapped a storyline for shock tactics. And now he returns with Spring Breakers; either one of the most pointed parodies or poisonous pictures ever made.

The plot may seem patronisingly simple, at times overstretched to ninety minutes, but Korine is taking us on the scenic route.  A group of college friends- Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez)- are disheartened to learn that their savings won’t take them to Spring Break, and so resort to holding up a fast-food restaurant to fund their way to Florida. Their introduction to rapper/drug dealer Alien (James Franco) tests not only the girls’ friendship but also just how far they would go for the fever and freedom so promised by Spring Break. After all, it’s famous for its Girls Gone Wild…

You can hardly accuse the opening montage of failing to grab our attention. Thousands of students fill both the beach and the screen, the camera unafraid to glide over their perfect bodies. Naturally, it’s Spring Break; the sun-kissed answer to study week, and our revellers are having the time of their lives, albeit in slow motion. This effect, coupled with Skrillex on the soundtrack, plays out like a music video; an imitation made only more relevant as the film develops. And then, drawing to an abrupt close, a woman; blonde, bronzed and topless, snarls directly towards the camera and raises her middle finger. The message couldn’t be clearer: ”F**k you”. This image, like many in the film, becomes something of a motif. And while the medium may change, the message remains the same.

Characteristically, Spring Breakers is a curious film. It glorifies violence and gratuitous nudity, yet Korine can’t resist nudging an elbow into his audience’s ribs. But is he laughing with us – or at us? It’s undoubtedly one of the film’s biggest talking points and below, in no rank order, are five more. Be warned, spoilers abound…