Spring Breakers **

Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers
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Writer-director Harmony Korine has repeatedly stuck two fingers up to the cosy conventions of mainstream film-making.

While his deranged body of work might not always be coherent or emotionally satisfying, it does at least provoke a strong response.

Spring Breakers is as close as Korine has ever come to traditional storytelling, populating his cast with teen idols Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, who smash their wholesome images to smithereens by snorting drugs and pointing guns at innocent bystanders.

If there is a subtext, it’s lost amid the miasma of bouncing breasts, debauchery and endlessly repeated dialogue – ‘This can’t be the end of the dream’ – that hints at the corruption of modern youth.

Lingering shots of the female cast performing handstands and revealing their underwear adds to the thick veneer of voyeuristic sleaze in Korine’s off-kilter tale of crime and punishment.

Good girl Faith (Gomez) attends religious instruction and turns her prayers to Heaven like the rest of her flock.

She returns to her reckless childhood friends Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), who are looking forward to the spring break.

Except they don’t have the money to pay for their dream getaway.

So the girls hold up their local Chicken Shack fast food restaurant and use the ill-gotten gains to finance their trip to sun-kissed Florida.

The dream turns sour when they are arrested at a rowdy house party and sleazy drug dealer Alien (James Franco), who sports corn rows and metal teeth, bails them out.

While Brit, Candy and Cotty are content to become Alien’s gun-toting fan club, Faith is scared of their self-anointed saviour and heads back home to say 10 Hail Marys.

Meanwhile, Alien welcomes the girls into his gaudy world of excess, serenading them around his piano with a rendition of the Britney Spears ballad Everytime.

That scene provides the film with just one moment of hallucinogenic madness.

Spring Breakers begins as a desecration of the rose-tinted portraits of adolescence peddled by most Hollywood teen comedies, but quickly descends into a pointless repetition of images and vapid dialogue.

When Faith surveys the hedonistic abandon of Florida and gushes, ‘I’m starting to think this is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been’, we realise she is almost as crazy as Korine.

The hold-up of the Chicken Shack is the film’s stand-out sequence, shot from the vantage point of the getaway driver encircling the restaurant.

In stark contrast, the climactic shootout, conducted in skimpy bikinis and lurid pink ski masks, is a swig of insanity too far.