Filmmaker Harmony Korine is known for making abrasive, experimental films (Gummo, Trash Humpers) appreciated by a small audience. So what is he doing as the writer and director of a movie about college students on spring break, starring teen queens Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson? That’s a question Spring Breakers never quite answers, although any fan of Wizards of Waverly Place or High School Musical or Pretty Little Liars who stumbles across this movie is likely to be shocked and appalled at what Korine has created.
Anyone more familiar with his shtick, however, is more likely to just be bored. Breakers is a complete failure as a conventional narrative, making no effort to develop the four female students (played by Gomez, Hudgens, Benson and Korine’s wife Rachel), who head down to Florida for a week of debauchery, or to build any kind of involving story. But it’s also a failure as a snide commentary on the teen party movie, using repetitive, ponderous voiceover paired with images straight out of a Girls Gone Wild video.
If Korine is telling a cautionary tale about careless hedonism, the arch detachment of his filmmaking style robs it of any moral weight; the entire movie comes across in quotation marks (especially James Franco’s performance as a cartoonish rapper/thug who takes the girls in). And if he’s making a point about the media’s commodification of young women’s bodies, it gets lost in the way the movie itself ogles those same bodies. Ironic exploitation is still exploitation, after all.