James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens star in the wild new film from perennial provocateur Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers), about four flat-broke co-eds whose spring fling in Florida turns into a booze, drug and violence-fuelled bacchanal.
The overly bright sunshine begins to hurt your eyes. The semi-nude bodies grind in a tequila-fuelled haze. A waft of violence floats through the atmosphere until it dominates the scene, aware of its hold on everything and everyone. You feel all-powerful and totally alone. This is spring break in Florida, captured through the transformative lens of Harmony Korine’s imagination.
Korine’s impressive canon of films poetically chronicles the minor heroics and self-aggran-dizing intensity of marginalians, unseen, ignored and dismissed by a willfully ignorant world. In Spring Breakers, his attention turns to four female co-eds (Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine) in an unnamed college town. Desperate to hit the beach, but flat broke, they rob a coffee shop with fake weapons, steal a car, head south and start to party hard. Their fun gets rudely interrupted when the cops bust into their apartment and find things young girls should not be enjoying. Locked up with no bail money, they despair until a local petty gangster (James Franco) springs them. Two of the girls stay with him as his entourage and, ultimately, his hitmen; while the other two drop out, exhausted, disoriented and longing to experience that rush of freedom one more time.
Spring Breakers is Korine’s first film since Mister Lonely to feature professional actors. He challenges his impressive young cast in unexpected ways, with long, seemingly improvised takes and a demand for shifting tones of sweetness and menace.
The film lands on the more narratively linear end of Korine’s career and has moments that recall each of his previous films, especially the virtuosic tableaux of Gummo and the agonizing desperation of Mister Lonely. But Spring Breakers also brings a few new tricks to the table, including remarkable shifts in mood and a breathtaking cinematographic confidence; there are signature moments of montage in this film that will influence generations to come.
Harmony Korine thinks in pictures that no one else could even dream up.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6 to 16, 2012.