“My name’s Alien, my real name’s Al – but truf be told, I’m not from this planet y’all” – so claims James Franco’s corn-roed gangster in Harmony Korine’s latest cinematic offering. It’s a description that might more appropriately be anchored to the film itself.
Spring Breakers opens at a college campus, introducing a group of girls who’ve become disenchanted with the monotony of campus life. Waking up in the same bed, staring at the same walls and going to the same parties every day has all got a bit too much for the fickle foursome. So, naturally, they decide to rob a fried chicken shop as a means of putting together the funds to go get crunked up and party hard at Spring Break in Florida. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, a fair amount – the quartet are swiftly busted by the cops for possession of narcotics and get banged up in jail faster than you can say “SPPRRRRIIINNNNNGGGGG BREEAAAAAAAAKKKK” (which they do, repeatedly). In the midst of the clichéd panic relating to the amount of trouble they’ll get into with their parents, they get bailed out by Franco’s Alien. He’s a repulsive yet bewilderingly charming chap who takes the girls under his wing, introducing them to the lifestyle of a “true G”. For Alien it would appear that this mainly entails parading around with semi-automatic weapons, listening to rap, singing Britney Spears and irritating rapper Gucci Mane (playing rival gangster Big Arch). All of which are peculiarly compelling to watch, particularly the Britney Spears montage, which has to be seen to be believed.
As things start to get a tad overwhelming, the most timid of the girls (played by Selena Gomez) leaves to go back to college while the others stay and rob “spring breakers” with Alien whilst wearing pink balaclavas emblazoned with unicorns. If all of this sounds absolutely ridiculous, that’s because it is. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Korine has an inimitable talent for forging worlds that are both based in reality, yet feel completely separate from it. His previous films Gummo and Julien Donkey Boy both feel estranged, or perhaps even ostracised, from the reality they’re based within. It’s no different with Spring Breakers; one moment a girl will be talking to her grandmother on the phone and the next James Franco will be giving a gun a blowjob. Normality and absurdity bleed into one another to produce an utterly unique experience that’s as unsettling as it is amusing.
Spring Breakers is not going to be a film for everybody. There’s not much of a plot, it’s more a series of bizarre vignettes overlaid with borderline pretentious voiceover. It’s an alluringly repulsive landscape of surreal, hedonistic mayhem that demands to be gawped at in bemused, hopefully thrilled, disbelief. Whether you like it or not, you’ll never forget it. While the DVD Extras offer very, very little for fans of the movie (two measly features of 2 minutes in length) – the film fortunately speaks for itself, and it will make a fine addition to any discerning cine-philes collection.