Release Date: March 22nd, 2013 (US); April 5th, 2013 (UK)
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco
Touted shortly after its release as a cult classic in the making, Spring Breakers delivers a unique blend of boisterous partying, melancholic musings and rhythmic tones. Following the exploits of four college students desperate to escape and experience spring break, we see two well-known former Disney stars averted from their origin and instead fuelled by drugs and desire.
The most prominent and intriguing question going into Spring Breakers was always going to be how Harmony Korine, the man behind the curtain, would be able to portray Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez in particular as anything but two ‘teen queens’ idolized for their roles in the High School Musical franchise and Wizards of Waverly Place, but to focus solely on that aspect would be doing the film a huge disservice. It is to the trio’s credit that they manage to pull it off to the degree they do (the characters, and the film, are both hard-hitting), but the success of Spring Breakers is also down to the inclusion of many more elements.
From start until finish, Spring Breakers boasts a mesmeric quality (much akin to that of Drive) which amplifies the hauntingly idyllic narrative the film follows. This is partially down to the score, which blends hip-hop, synth and a surreal-yet-effective use of Britney Spears’ “Everytime”, to create a diverse audio backdrop to the story. However, the trance-inducing nature of Spring Breakers also owes a debt to just how well-edited the piece is. Although the film follows a linear structure, certain events are replayed in various different forms — such as in slow motion or from another character’s perspective — and these events are often interlaced with unassuming dialogue — such as phone calls to home. Every time an event or a piece of dialogue is repeated, it evokes a more fulfilling meaning than the last time, and so the film delves deeper into the characters’ psyche as it progresses.
Even as all of the beer-swigging, party-going and bikini-wearing (or otherwise) is playing out on-screen, Spring Breakers consistently retains and gradually develops its primary message: when somebody wants to escape, just how far are they willing to go? For each of the four women the answer is different, and their realisation, or lack thereof, varies in extremity. Although ‘spring breakers’ signifies the age-old clichéd representation of college students and their annual partying and alcoholic exploits, the real spring break is the one that the four females encounter, which is far from clichéd yet remains very real in terms of the power of persuasion, desire and accountability in society.
Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine are all very good in their roles, and even begin to amalgamate into a single being as the story progresses. The abnormality of seeing Gomez and Hudgens portraying the characters that they do only adds to the overall bizarre and peculiar feel the film has to it (which is by no means a negative point). With that being said, perhaps even further astray from his comfort zone is James Franco, whose character Alien is a rapper who delves into a number of unconventional activities. Franco has never been more distant from square one with his performance here, and he is on full throttle from the get-go. His charisma and unconventional charm are in effect throughout, and by the end of the film Franco is almost entirely unrecognisable (not just visually). Whatever mindset James Franco had going into filming Spring Breakers was the correct one as he pulls the character off, cementing an excellent casting choice.
Spring Breakers is very vibrant and colourful, and at just over one and a half hours long does not overstay its welcome — another 20 minutes would probably have hurt this. The combination of many of the aforementioned devices (integration, repetition, colour etc.) come together to produce a film similar to that of a relentlessly meandering piece of art. There is more than a hint of beauty in the madness. Even without the use of special on-screen trickery such as CGI, Spring Breakers remains a spectacle in every manner: visually, audibly, and in relation to its narrative. The film has divided opinion since its release and will probably continue to do so, but Harmony Korine does something daring and provocative, and it works.