No less a cinema provocateur than he was when he debuted in the Nineties as one of the writers of Larry Clark’s infamous Kids and as the director of purposefully alienating Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy, Harmony Korine has finally found popular success with his new film Spring Breakers – if the numbers from the film’s boffo opening weekend hold steady as it now goes into wider release. Technically, Spring Breakers is a far cry from the ultra-lo-fi camerawork and storytelling he implemented in his last feature, 2009’s Trash Humpers. But more than the technical upgrade, Korine seems to be working in a more populist key in Spring Breakers, using attractive, scantily clad young women (a couple of them Disney alums) in central key roles and obscuring the line between carefree indulgence and dangerous sociopathy.
"Pretend it’s a video game. Act like you’re in a movie or something,” says one of the quartet of college coeds before three of them rob a restaurant to get the cash that will enable them to head to Florida for spring break and escape the relentless monotony of university life. Korine, too, films the events as though he were making a movie or something for the first time in his career. This is a spring break/teen exploitation film that has all the booze and bikinis a glutton could want, parading its excesses through candy-colored lens filters and a backing soundtrack by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex. Hauled into a Florida jail, the girls are bailed out by a drug dealer named Alien, who is played by James Franco in one of his most flamboyant turns, with grillz on his teeth and long cornrows. Except for Faith (Gomez), the girls are as impressed as Alien is with all his “stuff” – guns, drugs, expensive possessions – and readily adopt his gangsta lifestyle. The abundant cash and high-risk thrills sure beat going back to the college dorm. In turns appealing and horrifying, Spring Breakers is Korine’s most cogent take yet on society’s outsiders.