May 9, 2013 Film & TV
Directed by Harmony Korine
Boobs. Women have ’em. And you can see them, as many as you ever wanted to and more, in normal motion, in slow motion, covered in beer and cocaine, in and out of bikinis, in Harmony Korine’s loopy, neon-dream fantasia Spring Breakers, which seems to fetishise the very thing it also seeks to condemn, or vice versa. This is the guy who wrote Kids, after all; his raison d’être is to make you look, really look, at what the kids are up to (while exploiting their body parts in the process).
If you do choose to go along for the ride, you must first understand spring break. In the New Zealand context, it’s kind of Orientation and Winter Tourney crossed with Whangamata in high summer. On speed. American winters can be long, and spring break brings the opportunity — if you are not poor or working a holiday job — to shake off the winter blues by joining in on multicoloured chunderthons at a beach town near you.
The four young friends in Spring Breakers don’t have the money to get to Florida, so they steal it, waving fake guns in a diner then burning their lecturer’s stolen ute. After only a day of heaving, sweaty, bikini-clad partying, they’re arrested and locked up in their bikinis (where do they keep their room keys?). Their saviour comes in the form of James Franco, a pantomime baddie with cornrows, teeth grillz, a dollar-sign tattoo on his neck, and BALLR for a registration plate. Forget tits; Franco’s Alien is the real star of this show. His machismo gangsta monologue should be compulsory in drama schools.
Korine’s lurid, time-shifty direction, the non-traditional soundtrack and lack of a single lead character have an oddly warping effect, in much the same way that one’s early twenties do anyway. It’s not until later, once the nipples have receded from your mind, that the disturbing social and racial strands threaded through this confection bubble up. To go into the ethnic stuff would be to spoil the plot, such as it is, but when you reach the closing credits, remember that the film began with one of our bored heroines drawing a cock and fake-fellating it during an African American Studies lecture. By film’s end, what are they really heroines of?
Korine’s genius may be that he’s marketed a film to the very middle-class trash he’s tearing apart. It occurred to me at one point that the neon glow of the lights — in swimming pools, beside highways — has a soothing, night-light effect. Shhh, we’re at the movies; it’s not real. In fact, that’s what one character says to another before the diner heist: “Pretend it’s a video game. Pretend you’re in a movie.” And whom do our stars call once they get into real trouble? Their mums. And so we come full circle, back to the bosom.