"I don't want to be like them. I just really want to get out of here."
Approximately every 18-to-25-year-old ever has declared a statement to this effect, the mantra of Selena Gomez's character Faith in the subversive Toronto Film Festival selection Spring Breakers. Why live a dull existence when there is a perfect life happening somewhere else in the world right now? The self-reflection pushes the religious coed to throw caution to the wind and head to Florida with her thee fun-loving friends. Beer, beach, and bare breasts follow and at first, Spring Breakers looks like just another big screen excuse to watch beautiful people act wild. Thankfully, it's anything but. Director Harmony Korine toys with Girls Gone Wild iconography to skewer party culture, the twisted priorities of modern young people, and the "American Dream." Gomez's Wizards of Waverly Place are officially over.
Teaming up with a provocateur like Korine is a daring move for Gomez and her Disney-spawned costar Vanessa Hudgens, whose role as Candy dives even further into the realm of R-rated flamboyance. Not just because of the sex, drugs, and boozy mayhem that go hand and hand with a party atmosphere, but because Spring Breakers will leave most of her fans (or maturing male onlookers) unsatisfied. Korine goes for the throat in his satire, portraying his quartet (which includes Gomez, Hudgens, Pretty Little Liars' Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine) as privileged college junkies who deserve better lives. In-between snorts of cocaine and massive bong hits, the girls take to armed robbery in hopes of collecting enough money to make it to the beach. It's a disturbing look forward in the lives of Gomez's core audience, a generation that's grown up in the Internet wild wild west, where piracy is as routine as checking Facebook. The girls aren't getting exactly what they want when they want. So they take it.
When the foursome eventually makes it to spring break, their freedom and recklessness are immediately amplified. While neither Gomez nor Hudgens strip down like the random topless extras that often surround them, the duo and their two cohorts take part in every aspect of debauchery: Candy blows marijuana smoke into Brit's (Benson) mouth; Cotty (Korine) teases a pack of bros with seductive gestures while guzzling tequila; Gomez chugs beer from intricate plastic tubing. The girls feel empowered — party life is seductive and they're at the top of their games — but they have zero respect for themselves or the people around them. That's Harmony Korine's master plan. If spring break looks like a blast, there might be something wrong with you.
Then they meet Alien, a rapper whose metallic grill and cornrow braids emobdy another side of spring break mirage. In the hands of James Franco, Alien is one of the craziest, funniest characters of the year — a spot on recreation of Kevin Federline. He woos the girls with his rhymes, his drug dealing operation, his guns, his money, and his clam shell bed. He bluntly declares that he is the "American Dream." The young women swoon. The behavior is comical, but it also strikes up fear — with violence and drug culture being such a big part of what's "cool" in media, it's not hard to envision real people take to an Alien-type persona. And that's what happens to the Spring Breakers, who eat up the faux-gangster lifestyle that harkens back to their days of holding up restaurants with squirt guns. It's only when Alien and the girls are taken to a real part of town, where real criminal business is conducted and people can actually be hurt, that they start to wake up. Faith realizes she's in over her heard and, maybe, it's time to go back home to mommy.
Anyone who goes into Spring Breakers expecting Project X will probably be searching for the nearest exit by the 15 minute mark. Following suit with Korine's past work, the film is hallucinogenic in its composition and absurdly funny (Franco's repetitive use of the phrase "spring break for evaaaah" in a tone better suited for a Keats poem is pure genius). That's not easily digested, but fans of Gomez ready for the next step in the evolution of the actress, as a performer who doesn't look backwards or consider the implications a single risky role might have on her career, should find enjoyment. Spring Breakers is challenging. It asks people, young or old, to question what they fantasize about. Even more so than a round of beachside beer pong.
[Photo Credit: Annapurna Pictures]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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It's Shark Week on Best of Seven. That means that all this week you can tune in to The Discovery Channel to revel (and cower!) in the face of all things shark-related. For those who could care less, we offer the following highlights from this week's TV Guide:
9PM: Last Comic Standing, NBC. Just five contestants remain in the search for America's next top comic; comedian Ron White stops by.
10PM: Curb Your Enthusiasm, TVGN. I have no idea what channel the TV Guide Network is on, but if you can find it, "The Baptism" is one of the finest Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes. All hell breaks loose when Larry and Cheryl travel to attend her sister's Jewish fiancé's baptism; comedian Richard Lewis accuses Larry of stealing his outgoing answering machine greeting.
6:30-10PM: Shark Week!, DSC. A Great White-sized block of shark-themed programming kicks off with a shark week edition of Cash Cab at 6:30, followed by Sharkbite Summer, Top Five Eaten Alive, and Shark Bite Beach at 9PM.
9PM: Shaq VS, ABC. Multi-talented athlete Shaquille O'Neal squares off against NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., then challenges 14-year-old 2009 Spelling Bee champ Kavya Shivashankar. I don't know if I would put my money behind Shaq in either of these contests, but you can't beat the man's pluck.
11:30PM: The Colbert Report, Comedy Central. Right-wing dingbat and/or conservative goddess (depending on your opinion!) Laura Ingraham stops by The Colbert Report. It's always interesting to see how Colbert's fake conservative pundit persona fares when he has to confront an actual right-wing pundit. Hilarious antics will undoubtably ensue!
9PM: Top Chef, Bravo. In "Foreign Affairs," the chefs must overcome a saucy Ethiopian cuisine quickfire challenge before creating a dish based on one of the foreign embassies in D.C. The stakes have never been higher! Then:
10PM: Work of Art, Bravo. In "Natural Talents," the remaining artistes must draw inspiration from their surroundings at a nature preserve. Somehow, someone will manage to make this phallic.
9PM-12AM: More Shark Week!, DSC. Shark week, by its very nature, does not stop. In fact, it goes all week. First up is Ultimate Air Jaws, followed by Shark Bites: Adventures in Shark Week with guest Craig Ferguson, and at 11, Air Jaws II: Even Higher, wherein "experts film white sharks jumping from the water in several parts of the world." Terrifying!
8PM: Community, NBC. Absolute hilarity ensues when Jeff decides to join a "Beginner Pottery" class taught by guest star Tony Hale. One of the best Community episodes of the first season (see clip below).
9PM: Real Housewives of D.C., Bravo. The season premiere of Bravo's latest incarnation of its Real Housewives of _____ formula, now in the heart of our nation's capital. And of course this Real Housewives is uber-relevant because the cast includes infamous White House party-crasher Michaele Salahi. Salahi! Is she our new Danielle Staub? I hope so.
10PM: Kill Bill Vol. 1, TNT. If you find yourself feeling all dirty and walk-of-shame-y after watching Real Housewives of D.C., you can turn to renowned director Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 to wash away all that guilt. Uma Thurman stars as The Bride, who vows martial-arts revenge on those who wronged her when she is left for dead on her wedding day.
8PM: 10 Deadliest Sharks, DSC. Did you think that was the end of Shark Week? No. Shark week will decide when you are done with Shark Week. If you don't know how to recognize the Ten Deadliest Sharks, how are you going to know how afraid you should be when you go swimming at the beach? Or at the pool? Fear! Fear!
8:30PM: Jarhead, FX. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a young man getting a crash course in the madness of war in this powerful drama from director Sam Mendes. Set during the first Gulf War, Jarhead is mesmerizing in its ability to capture the uncertainty and banality of modern warfare.
8PM: Red Eye, ABC. Famed horror director Wes Craven is behind this tale of a domestic terrorist (Cillian Murphy) who blackmails the woman sitting next to him on an overnight flight (Rachel McAdams) into helping him assassinate a government official.
10:30PM: Balls of Fury, Comedy Central. A disgraced former ping pong champion is drawn back into the world of high-stakes table tennis to carry out a top-secret mission. Christopher Walken is in this! Maybe you have better things to do Saturday night, but I suspect you do not.
6PM: Inside Man, AMC. Denzel Washington and Clive Owen star in this exciting crime thriller from (occasionally controversial) director Spike Lee, with unexpected twists right up until the very end. One of the best films of 2006, in this writer's humble opinion.
10:30PM: Meet the Parents, TBS. I feel like I've seen this movie a hundred times - probably because it's constantly on TBS - but it never ceases to be funny. Ben Stiller stars as the hapless fiancé who does nothing right when he is brought home to meet his future parents-in-law. With Robert DeNiro in one of his most memorable roles.