Seems like a dream. That dream being Spring Breakers, a thriller from Harmony Korine told in pseudo-Malick montage: just saying such a thing out loud sounds… ridiculous. And I’m not gonna lie, that’s how the film initially struck me. Truth be told, I expected to hate this film. Being a complete newcomer to Korine, I had no idea what to expect from him personally, but the film’s premise had me less than sold. But when I finally sat down and watched the movie, I was surprised by how well acted, how stylish, and how hard hitting the film’s punches are. I could never take my attention away.
Korine’s style for this movie is nothing if not aggressive. In fact, Korine relishes in making us uncomfortable. A stinger from beginning to end, Korine balances smartly between tension and provocative, timely commentary, never letting up for a second, although this does tend to get rather exhausting after a bit, from dialogue that repeats numerous times, to scenes that transition to the sound of gunfire. Kudos to editors Douglas Crise and Adam Robinson for the movie’s brisk, but still suspenseful and uneasy pace. And I know I’ve said before that Cliff Martinez is one of my least favorite composers, but the reverberating and sometimes soothing music he wrote alongside electronic musician Skrillex actually works given the mood of the film. It’s a great soundtrack.
Of course, what works best about Spring Breakers is the film’s A-game cast. Led by Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine (wife of the director), this quartet of mostly former Disney stars trade in that innocence for harsh, but genuine performances. The core strength comes from their chemistry, because even though the characters do some unspeakably horrible things, they do feel like they have a sincere care for one another. The way that they play off of each other is just wonderful, and of course, they’re all very talented separately, female MVP status going to the stellar Hudgens in a crazy and complete turnaround from her once horrible Sucker Punch performance.
Of course, even if I hated everything else, the film is still worth watching because of the simple fact that James Franco is just THAT good. He MAKES this movie! His character is so peculiar, so insane, and Franco, from the silver-grill on his teeth to his dreadlocks, is virtually unrecognizable in the role. It took me quite a few scenes to recognize him. He just gets so lost in the role, performing Britney Spears on piano, evoking snake like hypnotism and a strange charisma, and is aces at further making the viewer uncomfortable. But at the same time, he does appear to have something of a caring side, and they even manage to get some great comedy out of him. All of it is in perfect balance. This seriously might be the best performance of Franco’s career, so if for no other reason, see this film just for him.
**** / *****