No one would have ever predicted that a Harmony Korine movie would be getting mainstream press but the latest feature from this provocative filmmaker, “Spring Breakers” has been getting media attention for its use of established child stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez. At the screening that I went to, it was obvious that many of those in the theatre were there solely based on the stars and their reaction was quite hilarious.
The fact of the matter is, this is not Korine going back on his roots. This is without a doubt a Harmony Korine movie in the like of “Gummo” and “Trash Humpers”. The only difference is that this is the most coherent and straight forward narrative that Korine has ever produced which isn’t saying much as the film does its share of disjointed narration and future/past match action shots. This is his most polished film, visually. Korine always brought a strange beauty to his films about misfits, but in terms of style they never went above a static medium shot. However, this film shows a new eye cinematically for Korine, especially with this one particular scene involving a heist.
But, what is so controversial about “Spring Breakers”. It is the story of four college students (Hudgens, Gomez, Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson) who decides to rob a store in order to pay for a trip to Florida for Spring Break. They spend days and nights in debauchery until it becomes a nightmare encountering colorful people such as James Franco as a local rapper and hustler named Alien. The point of controversy comes to how the marketing has been marketing this film. It presents Gomez and Hudgens in their bikinis constantly with the promise of something titillating. And what happens to these girls onscreen and the activities that they partake do in fact play to the fact that these are people with the persona of innocence.
Korine is touching upon a common theme that is populates his earlier works. He has an affinity for the people who live mundane lives. But, those people in films such as “Gummo” and “Trash Humpers” are satisfied with their lives. The characters in those films do horrible things because they simply have nothing better to do. They are living with mendacity of their lives. “Spring Breakers” break from that mold and instead he has his characters actively trying to change by leaving small town roots and realizing that it is not exactly paradise.
Korine uses his cinematography to tell this story visually. The film has a dreamlike quality with its heightened color saturation. And the film slowly turns into a nightmare as nightmarish things happen to the characters at hand. It is a poignant satire on what spring break means for a lot of people. It is used as an escape from reality by most people. The weird structure with constant callbacks to words and continuity jumps in its montage follows dream logic in a sense.
And dreams are the central theme of the film. Each characters dreams of bigger things from the girls to James Franco’s character to even Gucci Mane’s stale role. It adheres to the bigger social commentary of the entire picture. Korine has always been a provocateur of his generation, making poignant observations. Here, he sees our culture of wanting to grow up quickly while still being stuck in perpetual adolescence either due to media or our own attitudes. Look at Hudgens and Gomez. They took the role as a step away from their Disney careers. Yet, it is the media that attempts to puts them back into that box and makes it into a controversy.
With all the media coverage on the film, no pharmacy, cashier hanging magazine effectively makes not of what this film is actually trying to say. Harmony Korine has made yet another surrealistic, genius film, in the likes of “Gummo”, of his time with his own unique vision and voice. The fact that for the first time his name is getting out there means something and looks like it was orchestrated for this purpose. From what looked like a possible sell out film, Korine stays true to his roots with a film that needs to be seen many more times to be truly appreciated especially after the stigma it has received during the time of its release.
Spring Breakers hits UK Cinemas on April 5th
This article was first posted on March 28, 2013