News Column

'Spring Breakers' Is Empty and Clumsy

March 22, 2013

Lawrence Toppman

James Franco

When he was 18, Harmony Korine wrote a screenplay about irresponsible, sexually accessible girls who become involved with a violent scumbag and ruin their lives. Few people cared about "Kids," except for some critics who found it shocking and raw.

He continued to explore the lower depths of society through movies such as "Mister Lonely" and "Trash Humpers." But after 20 years, he got smart: He wrote another screenplay about irresponsible, sexually accessible girls who become involved with a violent scumbag and ruin their lives, and he cast sweethearts made famous by Walt Disney Corp.

Voila! "Spring Breakers," a movie everyone will talk about until they realize how empty and clumsy it is.

Look! There's Vanessa Hudgens of "High School Musical," writhing carnally in a pool with Ashley Benson of "Pretty Little Liars"! Look! There's Selena Gomez of "Hannah Montana," wiggling her booty and smoking pot!

Don't look! There's a nonsensical plot that ends in an absurd fantasy. Don't listen, either, or the flat, repetitive speeches will kill brain cells. They're delivered in monotones by all four actresses, including Rachel Korine as the other member of the quartet.

The four students, stifled by suburbia, talk about "finding ourselves" at spring break. They steal money to get to St. Petersburg, Fla., where they begin "living our dreams" by snorting cocaine, sucking on beer bongs and staggering to the side of a road, where they flip the bird to drivers.

Eventually, they end up in the county jail. A slimy drug dealer with dreadlocks, more tattoos than a circus freak and the reasonable nickname of Alien bails them out so he can have sex with them. One goes home, while the others go gangsta and become expert shots without ever learning how to aim a gun.

The film has two assets. The first is the performance of James Franco as Alien. When he's not around, the movie sags like a mattress in a rent-by-the-hour motel.

The other is the cinematography of Benoit Debie, who enlivens the film with angles, colors and effects that mitigate boredom.

If you're still reading this review, I assume it's because you want to know whether you'll see the starlets naked. Hudgens -- yes, briefly. Benson, yes, about the same length of time. Gomez -- no.

Many other women strip, including Rachel Korine. Why Harmony Korine asked his wife to drop trou I have no idea. Perhaps they thought they were making a comment about social stagnation or disaffected youth. Instead, they give us a kind of "American Idiot" in which the main characters simply remain idiots.

Source: (c)2013 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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