Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring Breakers (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine, an enfant terrible of the late nineties, once notorious for his debut feature "Gummo" a surreal and sociological  study of residents in Tennessee,  never fails to provoke. In his latest "Spring Breakers" his lens is just as pointed, apprehensive and unapologetic. Here he takes on the insidiousness of gun violence and  adrenaline junkies under the guise of a fluffy cheesecake "drive in" movie.

Candy, Brit, Cotty and Faith, a group of  amoral and shallow college girls who look a bit like Britney Spears (played by Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine and the Disney-teen Selena Gomez, respectively) are whiny and spoiled and-- OMG -- without cash necessary to have their hedonistic splurge-fest in Spring Break St. Petersburg.

Although one might ask where their parents are, they have the oh-not-so great brainstorm to hold up a fried chicken restaurant with fake but very realistic guns. They smash around a lot and holler, ruling with fierce  intimidation.

They succeed in their crime and hit the highway, jubilant and elated.

There are several very well done montages showing the ridiculous banality of alcohol consumption with nudity coupled with the crudity of sexual gestures and infantile obscene behavior . Boys make bongs out of plastic baby dolls and smoke away on the abdomen and bottom. Another boy wears what looks like the head of a roast pig on his head and puffs up a storm.

What fun.

The images are jarring and spooky, almost Herzog-like in their ethereal yet earthy quality. And as  Harmony Korine is a Werner Herzog aficionado, this display is a trademark of his, part tribute and part flourish. In a rapid fire staccato manner, the montages burst upon the eye like virulent "Looney Toons". Silly, meaningless and blatantly misogynistic all this behavior is, but altogether very real. Also, a Harmony Korine trademark, are the appearances of strange, eerie youth, here portrayed as twins played by Sidney and Thurman Sewell.

During an outdoor neon rave, the girls get mixed up with coke and are taken to jail. Clad in their piƱa colada and tequila colored bikinis, seemingly stapled to the industrial gray walls, the girls resemble parti-fish, rapidly blanched of their streaks.

 Abruptly they are released when a creepy drug-dealer and aspiring rapper Alien, wonderfully played by James Franco, pays their bail, no charges filed.

The girls are quickly immersed into a vacant and violent world of drugs and guns.

The naive Faith wants to go home, while the three girls, enraptured with money, guns and sex stay in Alien Al's crib. The "Scarface"-esque plot becomes secondary to what is a catalogue of Ego, mania and the fetish of our gun culture. The core of the movie is its visual sense together with the visceral yet inane savagery of Alien. James Franco is excellent here and as scary as Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet". He is also a bit comical with his titanium teeth and affected accent. Those comic wrinkles around his eyes add to the menace while his warm actor's smile mutates into a sad evil, the essence of all things Luciferic.

In one scene, as all three girls gather around a white piano to sing a Britney Spears ballad, wearing pink ski masks and armed with automatic rifles, they look like violent Teletubbies, hypno-crooning with blood and Pop. It is the single most arresting scene in the film. With "Spring Breakers" veneer of day glow seeped in the blackness of intention, I am reminded of a black velvet painting. Its existence might be lacking to most, but to others it points to a seedy potential, and a haunting, albeit negative poetry that lies just against the surface.

Write Ian at

No comments: