* and 1/2 out of ****
Spring Breakers, the latest film from Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo), sorely strives to be an art house film. Sadly, it topples under a soulless script, hollow characters and discursive editing, falling flat on the face of its own self importance.
The plot involves four college girls who rob a restaurant to fund their spring break vacation. After landing in jail, they are bailed out by wanna-be rapper/drug dealer Alien (James Franco), who takes them further down the film's nihilistic, hallucinatory journey.
Franco delivers an unexpected and offbeat performance as Alien. He brings charisma and meaning to an otherwise loathsome character, and it's fun seeing him take on an uncharacteristic roll. The rest of the acting is painful to watch — so much so that it often removes you from the film. Korine obviously asked little of his talent, stating in an interview that (terrible) rapper turned (even more terrible) actor Gucci Mane was so intoxicated on set he slept through the filming of his sex scene.
As for the film's structure, it's basically Kids reimagnined as an hour-and-a-half long Skrillex —who composed the soundtrack — music video, with a hint of Scarface and bikinis thrown in. Spring Breakers is even edited like a music video, lacking a clear progression between scenes — another device that takes the viewer out of the film and making it practically unwatchable in parts.
Spring Breakers wants to make the case that young people, if given the right conditions, will operate purely on ID, fueled by an insatiable impulse for sex, drugs and violence. This is a reoccurring motif in Korine's work — and a tired one. The film adds nothing to this theme, offering no theories for or answers to this supposed moral crisis. Korine wants to get under your skin, leaving you with the grimy, uncomfortable acknowledgement that deep down we all possess urges of evil and cruelty. Instead, his audience will most likely leave feeling as empty handed as the film itself...or, at least, a longing for their $10 back.
Let me save you $10. You can create a commensurable movie-going experience in the comfort of your own home by finding Kids or an old season of Baywatch on Netflix, putting it on mute, and queuing up a dubstep station on Pandora. It will be the same thing — maybe better.