With March now solidly behind us, students everywhere grudgingly turn their attention back to work — while keeping one eye set on the summers before them. Here is that weirdest month of the year for us young adults. The weather drifts day by day between gorgeous (and unexpected) heat and aggravating cold. That’s how it goes in April. So who could possibly remember March? Director Harmony Korine, for one, definitely does, making it a battleground of youthful depravity in his latest and most enigmatic feature: “Spring Breakers.”
Disney tween goddesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens tag team with Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine to make a debauched college foursome hell-bent on having the spring break of their lives. But when scraping together enough money for the trip proves too difficult, the girls go crazy: They rob a local chicken restaurant with a hammer and a squirt gun, cleaning up in the process and punching their tickets to Florida. And the chaos hardly dies down from there. By winding turns, the girls meet Alien (James Franco), a local Floridian dealer and budding rap artist, who takes them under his wing to serve them a gritty slice of the extremes of the modern day underworld.
Judging by the trailer and this synopsis, you’ve got the makings of a standard, potentially delectable crime thriller — delectable if only because watching Gomez and Hudgens turn heel in a definitely un-Disney-like work is enough to peak the interest of any guy between the ages of 16 and 44. But then you notice who exactly your director is.
Harmony Korine is a certifiably artsy auteur whose directing credits for “Gummo” and “Julien Donkey-Boy” have been heard of by few, and watched by even fewer. So you know there just has to be some offbeat hitch to “Spring Breakers” that will surely turn us away from the movie altogether. The prettiness of the cast (minus Franco) can only keep us engaged for so long, after all. And true to form, Korine’s film is an aesthetic assault that’s nothing like what you expect it to be.
“Spring Breakers” adopts a meandering narrative built on bodiless voiceovers. It avoids straightforward plot construction and takes our general understanding of the story for granted. For many people, especially those swayed by the film’s marketing, this is an absolute turn-off — and as well it should be. You’re looking for pretty girls shooting dirty guns, not deep philosophical examinations of the idea of spring break itself.
That being said, I want to say Korine pulled off what he was trying to do. He’s attempting, in not so many words, to paint a picture of mismatched and misguided ideologies. The girls escape to Florida to get away from the doldrums of campus living: boring classes and shitty roommates. After a while, they go stir crazy, but there is no such thing as paradise. The same beaches the girls hit during the day double as a stomping ground for the city’s most violent drug dealers, and once they’ve stepped off the main strip, they’re confronted with a brutal culture completely at odds with the willy-nilly drunken free-for-all that dominates the standard student’s conception of spring break.
But does that mean running away from it all is any better than dealing with the problem itself? I can get behind what our femme fatales believe: Namely, that life can be excruciatingly monotonous. So why not take a chance on escape? The problem is that the girls don’t realize that what they’re escaping to is just as real, if not more so, than the admittedly simple lives they lead to begin with. And even if they think they’ve happened on the time of their lives, that place they’ve uncovered has a whole host of issues just waiting to creep up on them.
So keeping this in mind, what do we latch onto in Harmony Korine’s latest feature? I think it’s more a mood than anything else. We must walk away from “Spring Breakers” with an assurance that while our lives might seem imperfect or unimportant, it could always be much worse. Therefore, treat breaks for what they are: breaks. Never get too wrapped up in the allure of the exotic, or else you might find yourself lost in something much darker than you ever expected. That doesn’t mean you should ever get complacent with home. Just be careful not to take it too far. Gomez, Hudgens and the rest do exactly that, and they have but a string of bullet holes and dead bodies to show for it.