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Sprang break 

Harmony Korine pioneers 'beach noir.'

click to enlarge 'SPRING BREAKERS': James Franco stars image
  • 'SPRING BREAKERS': James Franco stars.

The first thing "Spring Breakers" breaks is any sense that you're watching American cinema. The first Skrillex-scored minutes immerse you into a sunny, sandy, booze-and-boobs scrum on some beach that radiates Floridian debauchery. Every other first five minutes you've sat through this year in a cineplex suddenly seems like a focus-grouped copout. And things only get more lunatic from there.

"Spring Breakers" has gathered fast notoriety for cementing the post-tween careers of erstwhile Disney darling Selena Gomez and, to a lesser extent, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson. Along with Rachel Korine, they form a bored foursome determined to ditch their unnamed Southern college town and alight beachward for spring break. To accomplish this, they turn to bad deeds. Then, bad deeds turn on them.

Calling this movie "Spring Breakers" camouflages its dark heart as surely as it would've been to retitle "Reservoir Dogs" to "Warehouse Follies," or selling "The Fast and the Furious" as "Afternoon Commute." When asked what she would tell her younger fans about the movie, 20-year-old Gomez replied, "Don't see it." If you're a grown-up, that advice does not apply to you.

Already we're into exciting territory if we're watching a mature movie about youth. In its lurid depictions of sex-charged teens getting blotto and sexed-up, "Spring Breakers" echoes "Kids," another innocuously titled film penned by writer/director Harmony Korine that had parents squirming in 1995. This time he's indulging in — pioneering? — something he has called, quite aptly, "beach noir."

Korine gives us virtually no scenes of our spring-breaking foursome having anything like the fun that opens this ride. Sleazy motel parties that set your rape detector a-shrieking, yes. Lolling in the pool and wishing it could never end, yes. But the stereotypical beach bacchanal remains divorced from the narrative. These topless, senseless sorts dumping beer down each other's throats and pack-humping in the surf? They're no more real to the film than they are to you or to our restless quartet, drawn to spring break's mythology. Your imagination is the girls' imagination. The orgiastic interludes are there to acknowledge your expectations so that Korine may smash them later.

The director's avatar arrives in the form of a rapping, "Scarface"-worshipping drug dealer named Alien, played by James Franco in cornrows and a gold grill. (Franco clearly loves this role, continuing his apparent streak of displaying enthusiasm only for characters who get high.) Alien posts bail for our four anti-heroes and invites them into his dirtbag underworld. From there, what unfolds could be considered a conventional crime film in pink denim cutoffs. We've seen these ladies doing handstands in their dorm hallway and singing Britney Spears together, so when things get all Girls Gone Criminally Insane, the candy-colored gloss gives way to a sense of the truly sinister. On spring break you can do whatever you want and no one will ever know. What an alibi.

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Film Details

Spring Breakers
Rated R · 94 min. · 2013
Official Site: www.springbreakersmovie.com
Director: Harmony Korine
Writer: Harmony Korine
Producer: Chris Hanley, Jordan Gertner, David Zander and Charles-Marie Anthonioz
Cast: Selena Gomez, James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Heather Morris, Rachel Korine, Ashley Lendzion and Gucci Mane

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