In this week's Grazia, we reveal the truth behind Spring Break, the bachannalian rite of passage for millions of American college students. Our expose was inspired by today's release of one director’s rather more surreal take on what has become an annual institution.
Writer and director Harmony Korine says that he wanted his latest film, Spring Breakers, to ‘veer into something that is closer to a drug experience, something that is very physical and works on you in a way that is undefined, and transcendent.’
That, he has certainly achieved. From the ear-splitting, woozy drum-and-bass-infused soundtrack and the colour-drenched cinematography (Korine says he wants it to look like they had ‘used Skittles for lenses’), to the violence which escalates as the film progresses, Spring Breakers is an assault on the senses.
But it was never going to be cosy, comfortable viewing; this is Korine, the man who wrote the controversial Kids twenty years ago (the film that made a star of Chloe Sevigny), and Trash Humpers, featuring ‘a loser-gang cult-freak collective’ in Nashville, Tennessee.
Part comedy, part apparent sociological commentary on the youth of today, the opening shots are a slow-motion sequence of barely-clad boobs and bottoms, boys pouring drinks into, and over girls, who are striking provocatively sexual poses. This is Spring Break, the hard-partying half-term holiday for US college kids to get their rocks off in the sunshine.
The more specific story begins with four skint, but fun-hungry college girls – Candy (played by Vanessa Hudgens) Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine, Harmony’s wife) – robbing a local restaurant, with fake guns (except the film’s comparatively good girl, Faith), to scrape together enough money to escape on Spring Break.
Soon, they are bikini-clad and Florida-bound, the formerly squeaky-clean Disney stars Hudgens and Gomez giving audiences the shock factor Korine doubtlessly employed them to do, snorting cocaine and smoking bongs among thousands of fellow revelers.
Their liberation is short-lived however, and the girls are arrested and jailed (still only in swimwear) for possession of drugs, before being bailed out by Alien, a lascivious white rapper, playing hilariously by James Franco, complete with cornrows and a glittering golden grille on his teeth.
But Alien’s not all selfless heart, however, and in exchange for his white knight act of kindness, wants the girls for his harem.
At this point, Faith decides she’s had enough fun (and who can blame her?), and abandons the holiday, leaving her three friends to disport themselves around Alien’s house, help themselves to his drugs, fondle his extensive collective of firearms, and indulge in group sex activities with their generous host.
In the film’s most amusing monologue, Alien recites a list of his most treasured possession, which includes his ‘dark tanning oil, to lay out by the pool’.
The scenes grow increasingly surreal, as Alien tinkles on an outdoor piano in the garden of his waterfront home, while the three girls, wearing neon pink bikinis and brandishing guns, pirouette around him to the strains of Britney Spears’ ‘Every Time’.
It’s hilarious and avant-garde, but it’s rather unclear exactly what Korine is trying to do or say. And the film’s final, violent spree feels a thousand miles from where it began.
There are myriad messages scattered throughout Spring Breakers: Korine’s commentary on the hypersexualised, hyper-violent teen and youth culture, the misapprehension of the girls - Alien’s ‘bad bitches’ - that this what a good time looks like, and the complicity of young women in their own objectification.
Unfortunately, the threads don’t quite knit together, and I left the noisy, sensory-battering film, merely feeling like I needed a lie-down…well away from any college students.
Spring Breakers is released on April 5.
By Jane Mulkerrins