Harmony Korine’s drug-fuelled distortion of the American tradition of Spring Break is both a chemically-enhanced nightmare and sun-kissed dreamscape. The warped tale of Disney princesses gone bad proves not to be a storytelling last resort, but a scorching retreat of hypnotic proportions.
“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it”, says Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray. And boy, do the girls of Spring Breakersyield, as Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens et al openly embrace the hedonistic, adolescent society of gratuitous sex, drugs and violence.
Gratuitous, here, being the operative word: after the candy-coloured opening titles, begins a visceral assault on the senses, no holds barred. Excessive nudity and slow-motion close-ups immediately offer a voyeuristic insight into the orgiastic beach parties and debauchery, that often borders on pornographic. Still, high art, right?
Once British viewers have finished pondering the subtle differences between this American Spring break and a wet British Easter weekend in Blackpool, they can begin admiring the gorgeous cinematography. As the girls commit armed robbery to fund their escape from normality, they begin a deliciously dark descent both mentally and environmentally, mirrored by the quasi-hallucinogenic aesthetics; the pink balaclavas worn by the gun-toting teenagers, as they later work with psychotic gangster-rapper Alien (James Franco), provide striking juxtaposition. Ultraviolet meets ultra-violence.
From aesthetics to acoustics, the soundtrack proves to be one of the many highlights of the film, with music sampled throughout by Skrillex. The highs are charged with an electric combination of dubstep and house music; the quieter, introspective moments bear rippling undercurrents of subtle bass tones which generate a real sense of gravity amidst the later, more outrageous scenes. Most memorable, perhaps, is a truly avant-garde use of Britney Spears’ ‘Everytime’, crooned by an inspired Franco during a violent montage – doing for Britney’s song what A Clockwork Orange did for ‘Singin’ in the Rain’.
It’s easy to fall into a trance at times. The plot is thinner than the protagonists, and certain sections feel like cosmetic, self-indulgent filler, but the loud echoes of guns being cocked intermittently between scenes serve as a chilling reminder of the film’s not-so-sunny reality.
Harmony Korine’s eccentricity was recently the cause of confusion during an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on reddit.com as fans were affronted by a series of incoherent, bizarre answers. His standpoint regarding the film’s subliminal social commentary, or lack thereof, is equally ambiguous, perhaps even endorsing the girls’ actions and hedonistic pursuits which suffer little moral implications.
Controversial, but still: there’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.