After the screenplay for 1995’s incendiary teen drama Kids brought adolescent NY skate punk Harmony Korine to international attention, it seemed inevitable that his talents would lead him to Hollywood. Instead he set a course for indie stardom and, over the subsequent decades, defined himself as ringleader of the American outré scene with films like Gummo, Mister Lonely and Trash Humpers. Now, almost twenty years since he turned his back on the mainstream, Korine finds himself diving head-first into its deep end with Spring Breakers, a gleefully hedonistic odyssey through America’s murkiest teenage rite-of-passage.
Gossip magazine luminaries Selena Gomez (starred in Wizards of Waverly Place, launched music career, dated Justin Bieber) and Vanessa Hudgens (starred in High School Musical, launched music career, dated Zac Efron) join lesser-known mortals Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine to play a quartet of renegade high-schoolers who, after robbing a local diner, embark on the spring break to end them all. Perhaps in more ways than one.
Opening with a mind-altering phantasmagoria of underage indiscretions, Korine’s film proceeds to breeze back and forth between the two-dozen scenes that make up its runtime with little direction, throwing narrative order to the wind as the director’s feverish love-hate letter to the peculiarly American pastime unfolds. Often, our only clue that a shift in time or place has occurred is the echoing rattle of a cocked gun, or yet another airing of the poignant mantra espoused by James Franco’s gangster oddball Alien: ‘spraaang break... spraaaang break’.
The film exists without context, eschewing petty distractions like character development and narrative cohesion in favour of the unending quest for more ‘shit’, as Alien neatly dubs his possessions, material and otherwise. So while Spring Breakers’s skin-lingering camera will inevitably invite accusations of exploitation from some quarters, crediting the film with any kind of master plan would seem to miss the point. At Korine’s party, everything — past, present and future — takes place in a single, semi-hallucinated now.