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Film Review: Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine is known as a provocateur in the film world, often bending the boundaries of taste and what classifies as cinema. He has a distinct knack of being able to overwhelm, excite and disgust his audience through bleak realism, dark humour and nightmarish imagery.

The latest visual treat to trickle out of Harmony Korine’s warped mind is Spring Breakers. It shares a few of his film making characteristics, in terms of a photogenic style and unusual casting, but it feels like a dumbed-down, mainstream version of the gritty, unique cinema he usually produces.

The story follows a group of high school girls and their fall from bliss. After raising funds by holding up a local cafe, they manage to escape the boredom of high-school norms in the hope of experiencing all that spring break has to offer. After falling in with a gangster/rapper called Alien (James Franco), their idyllic holiday fairy tale descends into a darker story of crime and sleaze.

With the knowledge of how grim and hard-hitting Korine can be, in films like Kids and Julien Donkey-Boy, Spring Breakers is disappointing in terms of its sheer glossiness. Throughout the film, Korine suggests that something brutal will happen to negate the constant teenage good-times and hedonistic montages with a shattering realism, but it never does. The happy montages would work better if they were juxtaposed with a contrastingly dark element to the story, which could work well as a slap in the face of Hollywood. The action in the film almost resembles the music video for Puretone’s ‘Addicted To Bass’, teenage girls being ‘badass’ whilst looking sexy. The film could’ve benefited from a stronger aspect of realism.

That said, it’s still a cut-above most of what Hollywood regularly churns out. Using his filmography as a constant reference point throughout this film may hinder you from enjoying it for what it is. In comparison to the souped-up cinematic tripe that makes millions on release but is forgotten within 12 months, it is much more creative and distinctive. Some of the scenes are visually marvellous and although it gets pretty fantastical towards the end, the story is actually quite absorbing.

Franco as thug rapper Alien is equal parts greasy, manipulative and funny, and the performances from the all-star female cast are compelling enough to make their vulnerability feel uncomfortable to watch in certain scenes.

The inclusion of Disney sweethearts Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens works to give the film a rose-tinted youthfulness. Even though they’re toting Uzi’s and snorting white lines, their preened and innocent reputations are somehow left intact.

It’s fun, exciting and it looks very slick. It works as a cool, raunchy summer movie for ‘alternative’ teenagers. But, all in all, it more resembles an extravagant feature-length music video, than the ground-breaking cinema Korine has produced in the past.

- Jak Hutchcraft

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