Harmony Korine isn’t like most filmmakers. If you’ve seen the infamous KIDS, directed by Larry Clark… That was the first time I came across Korine’s name, he wrote the screenplay. When I saw that film in 1995, it was a year before I started AICN and I’d never seen anything quite like it. It reminded me of some of Kenneth Anger’s work – like some dark real corner of the world that I never wanted to visit, but I would peep in on through the film.
Then came GUMMO, Harmony’s directorial debut… We even have a Harry Animation in dedication to it’s particular brand of weirdness… Because Korine is in Austin, I’ve changed the corner animation to that one. Then came JULIEN DONKEY-BOY and the sublime MISTER LONELY… then inbetween and all around is the weird awesome short films and video projects… like TRASH HUMPERS – if you like weird, check it out.
Like most of you, I saw the initial trailers for SPRING BREAKERS and my eyes glazed over. Cute girls in bikini filled Spring Break exploitation flick… the colors and the imagery felt all too familiar… like those late at night GIRLS GONE WILD infomercials… or the crazy videos at sites that if I mention I get banned from your workplace. But you know what I mean. It just didn’t seem like a high priority. Then “A Film By Harmony Korine” – Selena Gomez? Vanessa Hudgens? James Franco? In a Harmony Korine movie?
It is amazing how quickly a name of a truly avant garde filmmaker can take you from thinking… this is a wait for video to… I WILL FIGHT MY WAY THROUGH MOBS TO SEE THIS THING. But Harmony Korine instantly tells me that this isn’t simply exploitation, this man has something to say with his films – and all those colors and flash… that’s a distraction. That’s waving cuteness and skin to attract the widest possible audience – and then Harmony Korine is going to knock them the fuck out.
So, we arrive at the Paramount Theater at SXSW tonight – and I’d missed the initial badge let-in. Right as I was about to get through the crowd, the stars showed up and the screams of those dying for a glimpse of Franco, Gomez and Hudgens… well, you can imagine. The 30ft thick walls of people condensed… lunging forward in a force only seen in violent American hating mobs and celebrity obsessed American crowds. Being SXSW, it was the nicer, but seemingly everybit as intense.
Once in the Paramount – I found a seat, because I roll with my own, but it was so packed, that Yoko couldn’t find an empty seat in the lower section – and she’s not a balcony kinda gal. So she decided to read and kill some time with friends. And I have to admit, it kinda killed me.
You see, she hasn’t seen anything that would prepare her for a Harmony Korine film. The trailers just didn’t impress her – so she didn’t have the intense desire to see this like I did. Hell, where I was sitting, the top 3 ft of the screen was cut off – and one of the side balconies took a watermark size chunk of the bottom lefthand side of the screen… and I was definitely staying. I had to see a new Harmony Korine film in a crowd fully mixed between film fest aficionados and then those there to behold Franco, Hudgens and Gomez.
Sxsw’s Jarod came out and informed us that this moment marks the time where your brain had not yet seen SPRING BREAKERS – and that the future would be marked by this film’s effect upon that mess of skull noodles.
Then Harmony came out and very humbly introduced the film.
What is in this film, that you don’t see in the trailers is everything.
You see girls in bikinis, you see drinking, you see guns, you see a crazy Franco – and you either are attracted and curious – or it gives the impression of a headache.
The actual film is something adult and electrifying. The generation that has grown up with a FREAKS & GEEKS James Franco or a HIGH SCHOOL THE MUSICAL Vanessa Hudgens or a WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE Selena Gomez or PRETTY LITTLE LIARS’ Ashley Benson… they’re about to get a wake up call.
SPRING BREAKERS is an adrenaline pumping hormonal fantasy of listless nowheresville American would be Spring Break bound college girls. Selena is the church going good girl bored to death. She’s never known anything but the town she lives in. Her church going crowd don’t like the girls she calls her best friends. She’s warned that they’re no good – and really and truly… they’re really lost girls. But more on that later. She’s my favorite girl in the movie, because I can associate with this sort of person. Selena Gomez’s Faith is going to Spring Break to finally see if the world looks different. Where nobody knows her. Where she can reinvent herself and possibly find something to latch on to, not a man… but a way of life. Because life has got to be better anywhere but where she is. When she gets to St Petersberg, Florida’s SPRING BREAK as thrown by Harmony Korine… She parties. She drinks. She takes a bong hit. She laughs and dances and has a great fucking time. When she talks to her mother, she talks about the experience as being the most spiritual of her life – and the audience laughs – but I see it truthfully. Faith has been repressed her whole life. I get the idea, that when she isn’t with her friends dancing – she’s just going through motions. Letting herself go like this is a complete release for her. No familiar eyes, save for those that know the real her. She’s having a powerful experience.
The other three girls are Vanessa Hudgens’ CANDY and Ashley Benson’s BRIT and Rachel Korine’s COTTY. Candy and Brit are intense best friends. They have a mirror soul that wants to be aggressively bad girls. Harmony’s wife, Rachel. She’s outstanding in the film. She can go step for step with the other two. She’s very comfortable on camera and emotional. These three decide while on a lot of drugs to pull a robbery to get the money to go do Spring Break. Selena’s Faith has no idea about this in advance. And isn’t a party of it. The girls actually have a pretty great plan of execution for how to pull this job – and the filming of this sequence being entirely from the perspective of the get away car as it follows their movement from the glass exterior of the building as they unleash their brutal robbery. They psyche themselves up for it by saying, “Just act like it is a video game or a movie, just become hard” It’s a brutal thing to hear – and I’m sure when this movie gets unleashed shortly, we’ll be hearing a lot of folks on the right decrying the shit out of this movie. And that’s fine.
When all 4 of these girls hit Spring Break, they are in town with more money than any of them have had before. They rent scooters, drink, do drugs, make out with folks and party… swim in the ocean, sun on the beach, pulse to the beats. Things get very R-rated. Lots of tits and ass. Lots of exposure. I’ll let you discover which of our 4 gals expose what and do what – but they all have a real good time.
Until Jail. All their money is gone. They’re going to be stuck in jail for 4 days. The cops raided a party and seized a lot of drugs, but they weren’t carrying, so it’s a light citation that they’re going to get. Sitting at the back of the court room is a leering predator of a human being. James Franco. He has these twins working for him – “they do everything together”. When he hears they can’t make bail, a smile opens up his mouth to expose his grill. He’s sporting cornrows. He puts up their bail and is there when they are released. Smile gleaming in the sunlight, his pimpmobile with rims with dollar symbols that stay upright as he drives. He introduces himself thusly, “My name is Alien. My real name is Al, but on account of how I’m from another planet, I’m Alien”
James Franco’s Alien is one of those characters that once you are exposed to… you’re going to begin quoting. And if you’re an annoying prick like me, you might do the voice and the accent too. He’s so out there – that you believe it. This character sounds on paper and yes, when writers describe him, you will probably feel there’s no way you’ll be able to stand this guy… BUT – you know how Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lecter in a way so totally entrancing and reeking of charisma that you just ate that performance up? Alien is the Big Bad Wolf and he has a dream about taking all 4 of these girls home. Alien is a drug dealing, rapping, gun selling, tourist terrorizing bad guy. But, he’s living his dream. He tells the girls that other kids wanted to grow up to be President or a doctor or a lawyer, when he was a kid, all he ever wanted to be was Bad. Franco’s monologues in this will burn into your memory. Some could see it as a wild stand up act, but there’s a sinister and emotional realness – that appeals to 3 out of the 4 girls.
When he takes them to his hang out, Selena’s Faith just can’t hang. It isn’t her scene, not what she wants to be a part of – and when you see Franco’s Alien trying to convince her to stay – if you have a protective urge in your body… you’ll be squirming like crazy. Faith is visibly disturbed by this manipulative charming bastard. He knows what her small town mind is thinking and he’s telling her her own thoughts and it’s shaking her to her core as he fondles her face. ICK ICK ICK ICK!
I’m going to stop describing the steps here – because you should just discover the rest of the film. I will say that it is a sexual, violent and hilarious affair. By the time the grill wearing, cornrows Franco is at his poolside piano with his gun toting bikini girls and they demand that he plays something sweet and he begins to play and sing a song that is so goddamn fucking hilarious… and the montage that accompanies is a thing of sublime joy.
Franco is Peter Pan and Hook combined. The girls really are the lost boys. I like to think of Selena as being Wendy, the conscience and the memory of home. St Petersberg, Florida on Spring Break is very much either NeverNeverLand or the place in Pinnochio where they’ll soon make an ass out of themselves.
The movie is electrifying – and where it ultimately takes you – well that’s going to be something you’ll discuss excitedly and probably debate with your fellow film digesting buddies.
This is the first very commercial film for Harmony – and it is thrilling because the very very underground filmmaker has found a very very smart way to explore the American Youth that he’s been so brilliantly showing us. I can’t wait to read Annette Kellerman’s review!
This movie has dialogue you want to memorize – and that from one viewing, you’ll be amazed how much you can repeat. How many movies are like that? With characters that are very wonderfully drawn, in an adult manner and that gets as amazingly entertaining as this?
I really hope this movie goes over well when it is released. It’s actually something pretty amazing. Tough sell though. Just know this. It is a fantasy. You know how those go. You’ll be real happy in the end… At least I was.