It’s not what you expect, even if you know this movie is a deliberate disruption of the girls-on-holiday movies that date back to Connie Francis in Where the Boys Are. Here the concept gets reenvisioned by the mind that gave us Gummo and Kids, yet somehow Spring Breakers manages to be more disturbed and disturbing than even those warning signs suggest. Harmony Korine’s “romp” opens with a voyeuristic montage of kids partying half-naked and hard-bodied in Florida during the annual American college ritual known as Spring Break. When the focus shifts back to four girls with allegorical names like Faith and Candy, stuck at school yearning to join their friends (and planning a heist), we expect the movie to settle down into conventional narrative style — maybe a morality tale of escape and punishment, like Easy Rider with its bikini top pulled off. But nothing like that happens. Korine even builds the sound of a shotgun into scene changes, playing on our expectations of the ominous wages of sin. When the shooting does start, it’s nothing like what you anticipate.
Korine’s story skitters, foreshadows, hiccups, and repeats, emulating the structure of a hip-hop song. The biggest joke in the film is the presence of two Disney actresses, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, who, as with everything else here, earn different fates than we imagine. Even James Franco’s performance as Alien, the hapless, love-struck white rapper, misleads us. He’s suitably smarmy — you feel like you can almost smell his presence on the screen — and yet you end up tragically loving him.
But be warned: Despite the fun and games, you may wonder if there’s enough payoff to Spring Breakers. With disruption as the film’s point, the cheap sex and violent thrills seem guiltier than usual. Korine makes fun of Christianity, racism, and misogyny equally, but that doesn’t leave us a lot of enjoyment. With music by hipster deejay Skrillex and Cliff Martinez, who wrote the music for Drive, Korine deserves credits just for making a party movie that exploits the exploitational. But frustrating expectations isn’t exactly a day at the beach.