Arthouse filmmaker Harmony Korine (Mister Lonely) comes dangerously close to making a mainstream movie with this blackly comical thriller. While the film is often very funny, and constantly challenges our preconceptions by veering in directions we don't expect, it's also an intriguing exploration of America's hedonistic subculture.
Gomez and Hudgens also crush their Disney princess images as Faith and Candy, who decide they want to go to Florida for spring break with their pals Brit and Cotty (Benson and Korine). But they've spent all their cash on drugs, so they rob a restaurant and head to the beach. After indulging in a series of raucous parties, they end up in jail and are bailed out by a sleazy rapper-gangster who calls himself Alien (Franco). He takes them under his wing, getting them involved in his war with a dangerous cross-town rival (Mane).
The film is shot in lurid colours, with the girls wearing little more than fluorescent bikinis, sometimes accompanied with pink balaclavas. And the score by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez is visceral and hugely atmospheric, adding unexpected texture to the way Korine explores physicality, drugs and violence. It's also quite deliberate that, apart from the religiously minded Faith, these young women kind of blur together anonymously, like all the other bikini babes at the various beer-chugging, arms-in-the-air parties.
So it's no wonder that Alien stands out so starkly, or that Franco gets his groove absolutely right: he's a wannabe who loves the money, drugs, women and guns, but doesn't really know what to do with any of them. His most telling moment is when he plays a Britney Spears ballad on his white poolside grand piano. Franco is so hilarious in the role that he walks off with the entire film, leaving his mantra "spring break forever!" echoing in our ears even after an outrageously stylised ending, which plays out like an arthouse version of the climax of Al Pacino's Scarface. But then, Scarface is Alien's role model. And the film's point is that warped aspirations are becoming a big issue in young America.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 22nd March 2013
Box Office USA: $14.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $31.7M
Distributed by: A24 Films
Production compaines: Radar Pictures, Muse Productions, O' Salvation, Division Films, Annapurna Pictures, Iconoclast Films, RabbitBandini Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 108 Rotten: 57
IMDB: 5.3 / 10
Director: Harmony Korine
Screenwriter: Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco as Alien, Selena Gomez as Faith, Vanessa Hudgens as Candy, Ashley Benson as Brit, Rachel Korine as Cotty, Gucci Mane as Archie, Heather Morris as Bess, Justin Wheelon as Matt, Emma Holzer as Heather