One of the first non-mainstream, thematically transgressive films I ever saw was Larry Clark’s 1995 film Kids. From that moment on, my previously child-like eyes had been opened to a darker, more disturbing world, and I would never see anything the same way again. The best films and filmmakers can have that profound effect their audiences, and at 13, I was mentally-scarred. This tale of hedonistic drug-and-alcohol-guzzling teenage kids shocked audiences and critics alike on its release. Did I mention the sex yet? Oh, well the spectre of AIDS overshadows all the casual sex they indulge in, too. Just in case the drugs weren’t enough for you.
Morally-questionable characters, hostile, or at best ambivalent adults, and a documentary style gave the film a rough realism and cruel authenticity, furthering the impact of the raw and immediate script. And who wrote Kids, might you ask? Why it was the then-22 year old enfant terrible; Harmony Korine.
At this point, Kids probably represents the high water mark of Korine’s career (even if it isn’t even that well known itself), and although his directorial efforts Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy, and Mister Lonely have garnered attention since then, his new project, Spring Breakers may be set to finally give him the infamy his talent deserves.
Spring Breakers depicts a group of four college girls who decide to rob a fast food restaurant in order to fund their spring break. When they inevitably end up in jail, drug-dealer, arms-seller and all-round bad guy Alien (James Franco) bails them out, but, life just ain’t that simple, and it turns out he wants them to do something for him, too.
Alien is played by James Franco, who we know by now, is a SERIOUS ACTOR. When he’s not directing films, writing films, attending Yale, or lecturing on various topics at UCLA, he likes to dabble in a little acting. Not many actors get to dabble in such high-profile films, but then, not many actors look like James Franco (and I guess he is pretty talented, as well as being, well, pretty). In addition to Franco, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, two young actresses better-known for High School Musical and other tween music TV shows play against type as two of the girls. Working with Korine in such an attention-grabbing film is nothing if not a way to diversify for these two, and certainly displays a certain amount of bravery.
Whatever your take on it, this film will be worth seeing. Harmony Korine is always interesting, in his own batshit-mental sort of way. Just like Kids before it, Spring Breakers has the potential to make people sit up and take notice, and whether it turns out to be a controversial masterpiece, or a gloriously ramshackle train-wreck, we here at RBT wait with baited breath.