Girls indeed go wild in Spring Breakers, a wild-ride nihilistic tale of college-age bacchanalia that might be more noteworthy for the on-screen behavior of its young stars than for its insight into seasonal rites of passage.
Yet while the latest portrait of teenage rebellion from eccentric filmmaker Harmony Korine (Mister Lonely) can be frustrating and shallow, it also provides a visceral thrill ride of sorts.
Bolstered by a pulsating techno score, Korine fills the screen with attitude and energy to spare in his most mainstream effort to date. His goals are more satirical than serious, offering a lighthearted subversive examination of this annual ritual without really providing much insight.
The film follows college students Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) who dream about escaping their mundane college lives for a week of mischief and debauchery on a Florida beach.
They’re short on funds, so the group robs a restaurant but eventually winds up in jail. They’re bailed out by a stranger named Alien (James Franco), a seedy wannabe rapper who deals drugs and firearms on the side. Soon afterward, the girls become involved in a turf war between Alien and a rival (hip-hop star Gucci Mane) that makes their vacation seem like a distant memory.
Obviously seeking a drastic change of pace from well-known earlier roles, the young actors give improvised performances that emphasize bad behavior over good-girl image. As for Franco, he’s hilariously over-the-top while disguising himself behind cornrows and blinged-out teeth.
With the emphasis on rampant booze, drugs, sex and violence, the film takes parents’ worst fears about spring break revelry to the extreme. And that’s the point for Korine, who enjoys pushing the envelope in a gleefully bizarre and twisted manner.
In fact, the director occasionally seems to indulge in debauchery merely for shock value and titillation, setting the tone with an opening montage that features the camera lingering on scantily-clad bodies bouncing in slow motion. And yes, it’s a recurring theme. But even when it rambles narratively, the film remains compulsively watchable.
Watching Spring Breakers is the cinematic equivalent of a trip to Hooters, where the main reason for going is to sit and stare at flesh, but the food isn’t that bad either.
Rated R, 94 minutes.