By George Wolf
Spring Break! Whoo-hooo!
Actually, from here on out you may pronounce it “spraaannggg braaayyyk,” thanks to James Franco’s unforgettable performance in the surprisingly good Spring Breakers.
The biggest surprise is that, coming as it does from gonzo writer/director Harmony Korine, the film adopts a fairly normal narrative structure in delivering a rumination on the nihilistic nature of popular culture. If you’ve seen Korine’s wtf? classics such as Gummo or Trash Humpers, you know “fairly normal” is not his usual neighborhood.
The film follows four college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and the filmmaker’s wife Rachel Korine) desperate to break out of their “seeing the same things every day” routine. They gleefully rob a restaurant for some fast cash, and then hop a bus to Florida for the annual spring bacchanalia.
Their exploits don’t get much more law-abiding, and after landing in the the county jail, they’re bailed out by the mysterious “Alien” (Franco), a self-described rapper/gangsta/hustler with a “ballr” license plate and a mansion full of of guns, drugs, and the requisite nunchucks.
Much like Matthew McConaughey in “Magic Mike,” Franco is an unhinged force of nature, commanding the screen and owning the film. While much as been made of former Disney princesses Gomez and Hudgens playing down and dirty bad girl roles, both are practically invisible whenever Franco is around.
While Franco is the main reason to see “Spring Breakers,” he’s not, as McConaughey was in “Magic Mike,” the only reason.
Korine has something to say here, and, though he skirts with casting too many judgements on his characters, he says it pretty well. Outrageous, courageous, and often very funny, “Spring Breakers” is worth your time.
Plus, you’ll never think of Britney Spears music the same way again. Trust me.