Harmony Korine, the provocative-if-irritating director of “Julien Donkey-Boy” and “Gummo,” breaks into the mainstream with “Spring Breakers,” a flashy but vapid cautionary tale about four seemingly normal college girls who head to Florida on spring break and are immediately thrust into a life of crime at the behest of a wannabe gangster played by James Franco.
The movie is gaining notoriety due to its cast, made up of two former Disney Channel princesses (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens) and one of the “Pretty Little Liars” (Ashley Benson), breaking free of their squeaky-clean upbringing to play — along with the young wife of the director, Rachel Korine — a quartet of debauchery-obsessed she-skanks who get off on keg stands, blurting out profanities and snorting cocaine off each other’s breasts. If you’re lured to the movie based on the promise of seeing the former teen queens run around in black-light bikinis for an hour and a half, the movie does not disappoint.
But in nearly every other respect, the film is bombastic and annoying. I’m no fan of teenage debauchery, especially in instances where the behavior is glorified. Korine may think he’s denouncing the unethical actions of the foursome, but he also lingers over images of extras shaking their breasts at the camera while other shirtless douchebags are doing beer bongs in the background. And all of this, predictably, is presented in slow-motion.
The crime story in “Spring Breakers” is as redundant as the rampant tomfoolery, but Korine did well in hiring cinematographer Benoît Debie (“Enter the Void”) to shoot the film using the same washed-out, neon-color-obsessed photography that has become his bread and butter. I also liked the soundtrack to the film, which runs the gamut from Skrillex to Gucci Mane to Britney Spears and back, and somehow it all makes sense.
Unfortunately, that’s about all the movie has going for it. Korine’s filmmaking is much more arty than audiences may be in for, which is fine if you’re accustomed to him but could come as a surprise to those lured in by the cast. Otherwise, the film is completely surprise-free — just 90 minutes spent with a bunch of tedious characters who somehow find a way to grow even more tedious as the movie drags out to its tedious conclusion.
★ out of ★★★★
Rated R for nonstop drug use, nudity, bloody violence and strong language. 94 minutes.
Director: Harmony Korine. Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco.