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Published May 5, 2013

It’s hard to be young and famous these days. With strangers watching your every step through puberty and the inevitable mistakes of your early twenties, living in the spotlight as a teen can’t be easy for anyone. Now, multiply that by a bajillion when you happen to be young, famous and part of the Disney empire.

We’ve seen it all before; Lindsay Lohan; Miley Cyrus; all these talented girls struggling to shed their wholesome personas by overcompensating with the dark side. Even Amanda Bynes seems to have lost her mind with the whiplash.

So, what can they do? Well, they can make movies with Harmony Korine.

via http://blogs.kqed.org/
via http://blogs.kqed.org/

Spring Breakers, starring Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, is the latest addition to Korine’s bizarre filmography of arthouse movies. Although his name might not ring any bells to us normal folk (it probably should be ringing warning bells to fans of the Witches of Waverley Place or High School Musical, however), Harmony Korine is a critical darling amongst hardcore cinema fans for his gritty flicks about people living on the sidelines of humanity. Have you heard of Kids? Yeah, he wrote that. When he was eighteen.

Spring Breakers is about four girls that will do anything to get to spring break in Florida, even if they have to rob a diner. Which they do. Then they go to spring break and have a hell of a time with booze and drugs and booty dancing. Then they meet Alien (James Franco) who introduces the girls to guns and gang warfare.

Look, the plot is not really what is important with this one. It is minimal at best. It is more about these people, so seduced by danger and hedonism that they fall ever deeper into a ridiculous spiral of wrongdoing.

And that is the key here – it is ridiculous. James Franco is ridiculous; these dumb girls are ridiculous; this entire world is bloody ridiculous! And it is frightening, because despite the absurdity of it all, something feels wholly real about it all. I’m pretty sure I’ve met these kind of people before, so I know they exist. Hell, I’m convinced I saw someone I went to college with flipping off the camera in a spring break party scene.

There does seem to be an element of disapproval in the tone of the film. These characters are so desperately laughable. But I can’t be sure that it is not just my own opinion creeping in. As an unseen participant in the story, you go along with the protagonists and encourage them to keep pushing further into darkness, yet remain safe to judge them while cloaked in the shadows of the local theatre. Harmony Korine simply lays them out naked for you to project your own feelings onto. His hands are clean of their actions, and our thoughts.

Is this a movie for everyone then? My answer is a large rotund “no”. Not everyone likes the responsibility of making their own minds up – when it comes to cinema, the great escapist medium, people like to be told what to think. But for those willing to take the leap, it is certainly worth the experience.

The performances by the lead girls, while essentially playing a stylised version of themselves, are definitely brave and effective. James Franco is transformed and basically unrecognisable. The cinematography is gorgeous in stunning neon, unforgettable in its popping candy colours. The costume design will go unnoticed to many, but deserves huge props. And Skrillex was just the best choice for the score. Ridiculous.

Spring Breakers really more of an atmospheric experience than a film. When trying to think back on it to write this, it was like trying to recall a hazy, booze-filled vacation while suffering through a pounding hangover. Rather than a cohesive train of thought, it left the impression of lingering dream, which actually, is kind of great.

Now, was it the right move for these Disney princesses fresh out of the gate? Well, it’s a stock-standard move for teen stars trying to earn dramatic favours, so it doesn’t feel surprising or like a stretch for them.

But was it the right move for Harmony Korine to cast them? Yes. Yes. Yes. Because it is these type of girls and this backlash behaviour that he aims to shine a light on.

Well played, sir.

Well played.

Rating: 7.4/10

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