Whatever satire Harmony Korine shoots for in Spring Breakers is undone by some of the most annoying characters committed to film. Lazy and repetitive with no silver lining other than it makes the year’s other duds look better by comparison, the film is a titanic waste of time and, in one glaring case, talent. Instead of being a provocative criticism of modern youth culture as it so desperately yearns to be, it’s nothing but a high-concept irritant and the antithesis of fun. Rarely does a film come along that’s this tedious to sit through, but since discomfort without value is clearly part of Korine’s M.O., congratulations on one level are no doubt in order.
Never one to play by the rules of traditional cinema, Korine nonetheless exhibits an excruciating disconnect for storytelling from the start. Cued to the electro splendor of Skillrex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” his beach revelers get rowdy for no apparent reason as Natty Light drenches bared gyrating breasts. Shot in slo-motion and with a troubling voyeuristic tilt, the message of vapid good times is received loud and clear within seconds. The overall sequence, however, interminably rolls on and through its monotonous images establishes a lackadaisical direction that quickly defines the film.
Giving this milieu a human angle are party girls Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine). Restless of college in their small Florida town, they pine for the good times and self-discovery of Spring Break, a myth for which so many before them have fallen. Korine’s apparent thesis is that the girls have been fed this dream by their pop culture gods, a mindset that must then be exposed for its true fraudulent ways. In deconstructing this notion, though, the director goes overboard with his argument and loses his focus in the process.
Expressing no taste for crime other than owning a squirt gun pistol, the girls soon rob a local diner for the requisite funds and head to St. Petersburg with their religious childhood friend Faith (Selena Gomez). Together, the bikini-clad foursome sling around lazy improvised dialogue of the “lol omg” variety and engage in even less inspired debauchery with the assistance of liquor, blow, and predatory young men. The combined effect is one of extreme abrasion and a chore to weather, though it’s merely the beginning of the film’s caustic ways.
Round and round the partying goes, interspersed with the soundbite of a gun being cocked, a wannabe bit of foreshadowing that’s less effective with each iteration. Introduced to the true criminal world by local thug/rapper Alien (James Franco) after he bails them out of jail, the girls take to the lifestyle of semi-automatics and cash with laughable enthusiasm. If the girls’ empty ramblings weren’t painful enough, the addition of Alien’s ridiculous gangster clichés makes Spring Breakers downright intolerable. Allowed to roam freely, the cast’s freestyle speech points to a need for structure, one that mysteriously goes unrequited. Such missteps also extend to the typically reliable Franco, as minus workable parameters from Korine, he comes off as equally ill-equipped as his Disney Channel co-stars.
Amidst this frustrating cycle, the frightened exit of two girls and some 11th hour moralizing suggest a meaning beyond simple crime and punishment. While viewers may leave this cautionary tale reeling from the worthlessness of hedonism, the path to that end is one of such misery that the resultant commentary isn’t worth the effort. An intentionally soul-sucking experience, Spring Breakers wallows in the absence of moviegoing pleasure and sacrifices its message in the process. What’s left is a nothingness of the lowest caliber and quite possibly the year’s worst film.
Rated R for strong sexual content, language, nudity, drug use and violence throughout.
Spring Breakers is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.