TIFF ’12 WRAP UP: Spring Breakers

By Brandon Bastaldo

The latest film from NYC ‘it kid’-turned-grown up Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers, shows that nearly 10 years after Korine’s writing debut with his 1993 grunge-vérité film Kids, Korine is still very much in touch with the what young people are thinking about.

Featuring an A-List cast of Hollywood’s hottest young starlets and James Franco as a blunt addicted southern rapper named Alien, Spring Breakers has one hell of a peculiar plot that somehow works out just fine.

The sometimes drastic and misleading nature of this airy and yet simultaneously tight film wins because of Korine’s worthwhile direction and most specifically his adroit ability to encapsulate the woes and worries, triumphs and tribulations of a generation- which is impressively achieved mostly without words.


Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, and Rachel Korine in Spring Breakers

The fast paced, neon-accentuated ride that Spring Breakers’ takes us on starts with the four young Ladies who steal this show:  Through a series of experimental and less straightforward shot compositions, we are shown how Faith’s religious and generally conservative nature as a teen becomes blurred and distorted by the constantly blunt-smoking-bong-toking, party hungry girls she meets in her college dorm. Together, the girls commit crime after crime in order to fund their juiced up trip to Florida for Spring Break. The crew spend their time in what looks like an adolescent grotto that is a no holds barred drug and drinking binge where clothing is optional and sex appears mandatory.

After a day of coke sniffing and hard partying, the girls are arrested and thrown into a holding cell, and with no money and in a different state, their chances of making bail are slim to none. However, the girls are surprised to be bailed out by Alien: a white rapper whose gold teeth and extravagant garbs hue him something like a new age Floridian pimp.

With the exception of Faith, the girls quickly latch on to Alien’s side and accompany him to his ghetto fabulous mansion filled with more guns than a red neck convention and more Cocaine than a Peruvian trap house. As the girls become closer with Alien, Spring Breakers excites, terrifies, and weirds us out as we watch the dangerous life of Alien become somehow even more edgy with these little ladies at his side.


From nearly the first moment of Spring Breakers, as the title sequence rolls and more boobs, asses, and beers occupy every inch of our screen while ‘electronic’ musician Skrillex’s ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ plays, I could certainly feel the cleverness of Korine’s initial message.

While far from my favourite tune, ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ is hands down a generation defining song- a generation that I and most of my friends don’t belong to, but are well acquainted with. It is the Disney kid cohort, where , young, rich, girls and boys and in the suburbs listen to Lil Wayne and day dream about sipping syrzurp and smoking weed. However, out of all of these generational traits which shine through, the most remarkable comment would be the absolute feelings of youth that is transmitted here. By this I mean the incredibly young age in which kids of Generation Z (or the Internet Generation) have access to adult music, substances, and even activities.

James Franco as dirty south rapper Alien

Korine has always studied the continually narrowing gap between childhood and adulthood, (see Kids, or Gummo), but here it appears most stunning as these young girls rob and steal, drink and get high, and even kill with the most whimsical and detached attitude of any character in his prior productions.

Korine’s inclusion of Gomez as the young and innocent Faith is surely the director’s first nod to the metatheorem that Spring Breakers uses as the crux of its exploration. Spring Breakers takes many odd and at times unsure turns and for a while it appears that Korine’s at first ingenious ideas begin to lose their focus and completely unravel by its climax- a downside that Korine’s oeuvre has been afflicted by in some of his past works (see Bully). But this film works because Spring Breakers is so unbelievably contemporary and in the moment that all of this falls right in place with general message of the ‘iGeneration’ film.

Take Franco’s character Alien for example. This dude seemed so far out of left field (at least in a good way) to many older people I’ve spoken to. However, being closer in age to the dubstep and MDMA fixated generation Korine captures, Franco’s portrayal of this gold grillin’ southern rapper is not only spot on, but completely true to life.

MTV RIFF RAFF: Inspiration for Franco’s Alien

When I look at Alien, I think MTV RIFF RAFF: a real rapper who Franco’s performance precisely replicates, instead of mocking. RIFF RAFF, who first began his entertainment career as a troubled alcoholic gangster on From G’s to Gents, has since come a very long way from his humble beginnings and with a rap career that is not only successful but completely propelled by his use of social media and lickity split music/ music video output. Korine’s use of RIFF RAFF, this arguably self-made and internet built sensation, is not only a decision that is completely in the moment, but so telling of Korine’s comment with Spring Breakers.

Venessa Hudgen’s as Candy in Spring Breakers

One of my favourite things about Spring Breakers is that behind the gloom and serious generational topics at hand, it’s obvious that Korine and that cast had fun making the film. Featuring one of the best montage sequences I’ve seen to date, we watch Alien and his pink ski mask clad bunnies rob and steal, wielding machine guns half their size and clad in nothing but their tanned skin and bikinis. With goofy guest appearances from the likes of Gucci Mane, Korine does an exceptional job at alternating between serious and delirious.

If you haven’t listened to the ‘Rap Game Donald Trump’ you seriously should and after seeing Franco’s spot on performance in Spring Breakers. I think it’s fair we now name Korine the “Film Game King Tut’. 


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