As the school season begins, we’ll be counting down a variety of back-to-school movies and TV shows.
When most people think about school, they think about desks and chalkboards and teachers. But in reality, classroom education is just one small piece of the school experience. For many people, it’s where you meet your friends, develop your lifelong interests — and, of course, where you make your first big mistakes.
Harmony Korine’s polarizing Spring Breakers is an exhausting, exhaustive look at contemporary party culture. Korine — never a director to avoid controversy — drummed up extra publicity by casting former Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as college students testing their boundaries over a spring break trip to Florida, and the result is a hypnotic, intoxicating, often surreal exploration of the dark side of college.
The first act of Spring Breakers has plenty of style — including a tense, brilliantly framed stick-up at a local diner — but frankly, the film suffers from a lack of direction until the bombastic introduction of James Franco, playing a charismatic gangster who calls himself Alien. Studio A24 openly campaigned for Franco to receive an Oscar nomination for the role, and while that campaign was always doomed to failure, it really is a mesmerizing performance.
Alien draws the four girls into his dangerous, debauched lifestyle — a world of money, drugs, guns, and sex, often enjoyed simultaneously. It’s obvious that the unlikely union can only end badly for everyone, but Alien cuts such a curious, unique presence that it’s easy to understand why they’re reluctant to go back home. In the movie’s strangest, gutsiest scene, Alien and his new allies commit a series of escalating crimes while Franco performs an unlikely pop hit:
Spring Breakers has a gonzo style all its own. Harmony Korine spends much of the film amping up the tension and claustrophobia, making drunken partying look like a grotesque nightmare set to a throbbing techno score. The choppy editing — composed mainly of cuts from long shoots at actual spring break parties — gives Spring Breakers a disorienting, dreamlike haze. No, there’s nothing subtle about Spring Breakers — but then again, there’s nothing subtle about spring break.