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Blow, Thugs - N - Harmony: Spring Breakers Reviewed
Katherine McLaughlin , April 5th, 2013 09:19

Katherine McLaughlin reviews Harmony Korine's latest cinematic assault, Spring Breakers. Contains spoilers.

In Spring Breakers Harmony Korine captures a neon-lit universe where Britney is queen, Lil' Wayne is king and money is everything. Four college girls are led into temptation by the bright lights and promise of spring break and it’s up to them when the party stops.

The main objective for these girls is to have a good time and an escape from reality even if that means breaking the law to get what they want. On first entering St Petersburg in Florida for their spring break, the spirit of a music festival is invoked with a sense of freedom coming from the backdrop of sunshine and sand. The excitement of discovery and experimentation is prevalent, until the menacing underbelly of drugs and guns catches up with the girls. The turning point here comes when the girls are arrested and two worlds collide. Alien (James Franco), a gangster, bails the girls out on a drug charge and a sudden jolt of reality equally frightens and thrills. What happens after the initial euphoria of the party atmosphere is dispelled and the girls leave jail into the bright daylight, only to discover themselves and their limits?

The casting choices of Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson alongside James Franco only further Korine’s vision. Add Heather Morris from Glee and it’s clear that this is a very knowing move. Candy, Cottie, Brit and Faith worship Britney Spears, chanting her lyrics as they sit outside a 7/11 boozing to their hearts content. Britney Spears’ own coming of age film Crossroads in 2002 was a sanitised version of the girlie road trip that couldn't grasp any real emotions amidst the pyjama parties and karaoke renditions. And yet in Spring Breakers entirely sincere moments play out, with these girls – not yet women - connecting with Franco’s gold toothed drug dealer Alien through their shared love of Britney. Franco's performance is at once endearing and frightening as he nails Alien's bad boy spirit and worship of materialism. Alien is an amalgamation, an embodiment of the cash culture being aspired to, and it becomes clear the girls are not only attracted to his bad boy persona. He's a most memorable creation – his preoccupation with money, his lyrical lunacy and impassioned speeches all delivered with aplomb by Franco. A power struggle between college girls and the gangster world ensues with Korine never letting on as to the eventual victor.

Just as music videos frequently mirror films, here Korine mirrors music videos through his vibrant visuals. Moments of recklessness linger and swell. Repetition, loops of dialogue and the cocking of guns dominate the soundscape. Alongside the immersive sound design, songs from A$ap Rocky and The Black Keys pop up in this warped world where fantasy and reality are blurred together.

Benoit Debie's (DP for Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void) cinematography and the Skrillex/Cliff Martinez soundtrack complement each other creating an alluring aesthetic that blends the serenity, violence and sinister side of this slice of teen life. A hyper-vivid concoction depicting a generation of MTV viewers and YouTube clickers emulating things they don’t really comprehend. Korine doesn’t appear to denigrate his characters even if he may be denigrating their values. Essentially we are traversing teen rites of passage, as each girl tests their limits and lands in varying kinds of trouble.

Just as the girls are intoxicated by the lifestyle, Korine seduces the audience with a spellbinding ambience. There are hints of all his directorial work, with the observational and experimental hues of Gummo, the fascination with impersonation of Mister Lonely and the sociopathic tendencies of Trash Humpers. Korine is reflecting this side of teen life with his usual edgy and inventive bite. He’s looking to the unruly youth and their idea of the American dream; the things they worship and their right to party no matter what the cost. Spring Breakers is a turbulent, sizzling anthem of a film that revels in, whilst tearing apart, a particular kind of teenage experience.