Is it art? Is it trash? Does it matter?
Questions raised by Harmony Korine’s vital, lurid portrait of teens gone bad during America’s annual national piss-up, Spring Break.
Part paean to the resilience and rapture of youth, part leering grot flick which plays like Grand Theft Auto meets Ibiza Uncovered, Spring Breakers is either an ultra-modern treatise on moral and cultural bankruptcy, or a fun exploitationer that has as little to say as its hollow-eyed protagonists.
Probably it’s a bit of both.
Either way, it’s hypnotically entertaining, not least for the dirty-girl transformation of Disney princesses Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez who - alongside Pretty Little Liars star Ashley Benson and Korine’s wife Rachel - play skint college kids turning to armed robbery to fund their Easter vacation. Rich and carefree, the girls head to the coast to party hard until a run-in with the police and subsequent bail-out by dealer-cum-rapper Alien (James Franco) leads them further into moral destitution.
Korine’s visuals are mesmerising, a repetitious neon nightmare of booze and bikinis, jocks and crotch shots, while the insistent whisper of the phrase ‘Spring Break’ over the soundtrack induces an almost trance-like state mimicking the girls’ intoxication and obsession with their own freedom.
For an unflinching youth-gone-wild snapshot, though, there’s a lack of actual consequence.
With the exception of Selena Gomez, whose doll-like features make her look worryingly young (“about 15”, Alien accurately says), the girls are hardy, self-sufficient and interchangeable - no comedowns or shame spirals for these babes.
It’s more successful when Franco plays it as black comedy with his chrome grill and vast collection of caps and board shorts, though the girls aren’t funny and Franco’s never that menacing.
A readymade cult movie, Spring Breakers may not stand up to scrutiny, but it’s one hell of a trip.
Brave, brash and exhilarating, but lacking the insight and impact of the Korine-scripted Kids (1995). Too much fun for social commentary, this is what you wish school was like.