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Korine masters eye candy, commentary in feverish 'Breakers'

A24

By Andrew McClure, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 25, 2013

Everyone should leave life with one spring break footprint — a deep, mistake-laden, brain cell-curbstomping footprint. We’re not talking about mistakes that lead to insightful reflection and wiser decision-making. Rather, we’re talking about Harmony Korine-style mistakes: no reflection and no introspection. In his fleshly neon-porno “Spring Breakers,” director Korine (“Gummo”) force-feeds us panache and begs us to listen closely.

Further, he doesn’t see mistakes as mistakes; they’re all imperfectly perfect. An interview extracts how he feels toward his cinema: They are what they are — they mean everything and nothing.

“Breakers,” Korine’s first commercial rodeo, isn’t for the fainthearted nor the reactionary. He deftly montages a 93-minute music video, full of hallucinogenic aftereffects, hypnotic slow-mos and lewd excess. The film polarizes and disrupts once you finally get comfortable. But that’s where Korine shines: seizing all plot conventions … then shoving them in a wood chipper.

Say hello to your dormhood coeds Candy, Cotty and Brit (Vanessa Hudgens, “High School Musical,” Rachel Korine, “Septien” and Ashley Benson, TV’s “Pretty Little Liars,” respectively). Following the archetype, their missing fourth is the angelic Faith (Selena Gomez, “Aftershock”). They want an escape, but are penniless. On a whim, the desperate threesome decides to rob a diner under neon pink ski masks. Faith doesn’t mind.

Rock ‘n’ roll.

The awaited arrival in St. Petersburg, Fla. depicts what you’d expect from your buddy’s embellished Mardi Gras recount — except on steroids. One crane shot floats up from a pool to multi-story motel banisters, boasting thousands of faceless boozers. Absolute lawlessness. The fiesta ends with the cops and jail time. Hope prevails when rapper-kingpin Alien (James Franco, “127 Hours”) posts bail for the girls. Now, they must decide whether to return home or to exploit Alien and reach what they left home to find: free rein.

First things first: Like it or hate it, art or porn, Korine directs masterfully. His lens transports you into an over-sexed, locked and loaded dreamscape. He pleases the passive viewer via eye candy and the active viewer via teenage satire. His use of fluorescence both blinds and lures. He disjoints his narrative with peppered flashbacks, off-screen audio and all-bikinis-all-the-time dress code.

The foursome’s performance altogether lacks. Their phone-home calls ring sappy and unbelievable. Their explicit “bitchezzz” dialogue fails, feeling contrived — like middle school curse-word experimentation. But ultimately that’s what Korine strove for; he wanted deliberate excess, even if it sacrificed credence. “Spring Breakers” is precisely that: real, modern, dangerous excess.

Tonight’s main event … Mr. Franco. Cornrows and platinum fangs, Alien pushes drugs, and his Camaro’s license plate reads “BALLR.” He fronts an unafraid ego: “I’m the motherfucking Death Star!” Alien’s vulnerabilities are only squeezed out through his newly found darlings. He feels the need to inarticulately brag about his guns and threads in front of the girls: “Look at my shit!” Crazier than anything, though, is how we forget that Alien indeed is James Franco. Even outside his timeless quips and goofy delivery, Franco embodies the soft thug.

The opening sequence still tells all: beachfront hopping, grinding, tit flashing, beer bonging and popsicle nursing. A meditation on millennial debauchery? Hm. Hyperanalysts will beat “Breakers” to death with a symbolic bludgeon. Maybe they’re right and maybe they’re just hyperanalyzing. One thing’s certain — Harmony Korine could give two fucks what you think.