Candy (Hudgens), Brit (Benson), Cotty (Korine) and Faith (Gomez) are four everyday, run-of-the-mill small-town college girls. Desperate for adventure and just a change of scene, they pin their hopes on spring break vacation, saving up all they can in order to join the rest of the hordes heading down for hedonistic pleasure. Their hopes are dashed when they realize they don’t have enough, the desperate time requiring the desperate measure of holding up a fast-food restaurant with hammers and squirt guns. Having gotten away with the crime and made their way to paradise, the girls soon find themselves in the hands of the law on a narcotics charge from which they are bailed out by wannabe rapper/gangster/drug dealer Alien (James Franco). Joining in on his criminal ventures, the girls descend into a dangerous underworld from which they may not find a way back.
Spring Breakers is a beast of two voices. It is about a generation that is lost between two worlds, far from the trappings of childhood but steps away from an adult life that will require responsibility. For them, the only future is the present and their only duty is to their pleasures and desires. Candy, Brit, Cotty and Faith are not girls from the wrong side of the tracks with painful backgrounds and no hopes for the future, they are simply bored with the routine of their lives and the dullness of their surroundings. Korine does nothing to belittle their views or contradict their thinking, but at the same time it is more than clear that he does not hold the same impression. Beneath a voice-over telling us about the ‘magic’ of Spring Break, the ‘spirituality’ of the phenomenon and the ‘discovery’ of themselves, Korine inundates the screen with various images of gratuitous nudity, binge drinking and drug abuse. Watching it all from the outside leaves you with an overwhelming sense of disappointment at a generation that plays fast and loose with their morals and have grown up to believe that what they want is for the taking. With a fine sense of subtlety, Korine takes on the subject of the American Dream in Alien’s tirades, corrupting the ideal of a better life and freedom of achievement with the taint of illegal activities and materialistic obsession. There is no sanctimony, no beating you over the head, just a sinking in that haunts you sometimes.
Korine’s females are fierce. In a film that exploits situations steeped in drugs and alcohol, you would expect for some unwanted or at least uncomfortable situations. You’ll find none here. There is no victimization with these girls, their confidence and independence ensuring their positions of power over any man. You’ll see no catty, squabbling or mean-girl put-downs here. The girls do a great job here of representing real friendships on screen, filling them with an easy affection and genuine looking respect that helps us to believe that there can be no chance of danger as long as they are together.
While this story is more adult in nature than usual for Selena Gomez, her character doesn’t really extend to much from we’ve come to expect from her. Yes, she smokes; yes, she drinks – but that’s about it. She is the epitome of a good Christian girl, which funnily enough makes her the beating heart of the movie. It is through her that we come to understand the girls initial desperation; through her that we comprehend the impact of Spring Break and through her that we finally see how far they’ve strayed. Gomez is convincing of her fear, heartbreaking in her disappointment and the missing link towards the latter part of the film. In comparison, the other three are nothing but caricatures of bad girls. We discover absolutely nothing of consequence about them: they seem to have no families, no plans for the future and frankly no personality past their ability to giggle and swear like a sailor. Their performances don’t push the envelope, only their nudity does, and even that isn’t explicit enough to get excited.
Spring Breakers captures a dream-like quality with its neon colour scheme and soundtrack dominated by Skrillex and Cliff Marinez. Korine lashes together a mostly improvised script to give you a somewhat disturbing insight into a generation battling arrogance and emptiness, youth and consequence. It is a haunting and slow-burning representation of what the world it turning into.