Reporting Eric Henderson
“Spring break forever,” is one of the many phrases that get repeated by disembodied voices like so many airhead mantras throughout Harmony Korine’s hot and bothered exploitation stunner Spring Breakers. To the extent that Korine’s quartet of bikini-clad power consumers-in-training believe in anything, they believe in that much. The never-ending party is their birth right, and let the bodies hit the floor if they’re denied the opportunity to make it rain.
The movie marks something of a departure for Korine, who is constitutionally addicted to provocation (he wrote the screenplay to that 1995 controversy lightning rod Kids) and who as a director has never before really tackled a milieu so many people accept as, well, normal, or at least an only mildly objectionable rite of passage.
Though Spring Breakers features no albino children scotch-taping pieces of bacon to dirty bathtub tiles, nor does it include any VHS footage of senior citizens literally copulating with trash cans, it still carries the torch for transgression in casting Disney teen starlets like Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as hedonist Heathers, and allowing James Franco to continue punking the People Magazine demographic with impressively self-serving performance art.
Franco plays Alien, a midlevel rapper-slash-drug lord loosely based on Riff Raff (a Minnesota-born artist you probably would’ve never heard of had Korine and Franco not used his look as a point of inspiration). Alien bails out Faith (Gomez), Candy (Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine, Harmony’s wife) when their hotel room bacchanal attracts the attention of unusually attentive police officers, landing them in jail.
They allow themselves to become Alien’s harem alarmingly fast, though Faith, the group’s Christian goody-goody, gets uncomfortable when he takes them to a pool hall filled with African-Americans. (Among the things Spring Breakers is incredibly attentive to: the unspoken racist undertones of its protagonists.) That’s when the things stop being polite … and start getting real, assisted by semi-automatic weapons and ski mask sing-alongs that suggest Britney Spears covering Pussy Riot. Though Franco’s Alien winds the girls up, they’re unmistakably the ones in a position of power, which they make clear during one hysterical sequence when the girls playfully force Franco to wrap his mouth around his own gun.
Korine’s elliptical storytelling resembles nothing so much as a MDMA-addled Terrence Malick kissing the sky while remaking Katy Perry’s music video for “Teenage Dream.” (Suggested alternate title for these girls’ militant profligacy: The Thin Hot Pink Line.) The movie’s interlocking montages of beer bongs, topless play wrestling, bikinis and sneakers all suggest endless summer, a highly stylized distillation of the archetypally American amusements that have robbed this particular generation of its moral, spiritual and community bearings.
As another critic pointed out, these are characters that are incapable of hitting rock bottom, not only because they have no legitimate basis of comparison, but also because … well (and I offer her an obligatory spoiler warning) because they all escape their paradise-purgatory presumably scot free, beneficiaries of a classist structure they don’t have to know a thing about to still exploit.
Beyond its neon, bling and Britney trappings — all of which are stunning, like a cracked episode of Jim Henson’s Make-It-Rain Babies — Spring Breakers is one seriously dark look at America’s pleasure principle. It’s everything that totally sucked about the abhorrently, er, epicurean Project X, but done devastatingly right.
Speaking of endless summer, here’s yet another action movie that turns Americans in uniform into unwilling human fireworks.
Olympus Has Fallen is a relentlessly violent tribute to red state America, and its weekend grosses should also double handily as a census baseline for the GOP’s publicized re-branding attempt. These are the votes they will never lose except to death itself.
Which, to see it play out in Olympus, is a fate that surely awaits any official who doesn’t remain steadfastly hawkish on foreign diplomacy, not to mention everyone with the security clearance to offer protection, and D.C. tourists too.
President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart, whose nostrils get quite the workout here) is a widower, having lost his wife in a freak limousine accident. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the former head of the president’s Secret Service detail, but gets reassigned to a desk job at the U.S. Treasury when Asher decides he can’t handle being reminded of the accident on a daily basis.
But you can’t keep a good man down. While Banning is mail merging, Asher is refusing to yield to the Speaker of the House’s demand that the president’s office issue a rebuke to North Korea to coincide with the arrival of South Korean diplomats. So it’s with great irony that the diplomats turn out to be North Korean terrorists who take the president and much of his cabinet hostage in the White House bunker 100 feet underground.
The unmistakable message? Starve out our enemies before they can amass an army of a few dozen and steal all of our country’s best weapons right out from under our noses without anyone noticing. Oh, and maybe also make sure not to allow non-U.S. citizens into the nation’s most highly secured bunker in the middle of a terrorist strike.
Olympus Has Fallen is a particularly bloodthirsty Air Force One rehash without much finesse, but it has unapologetic vulgarity on its side. It’s going to be amusing to parse the reactions Olympus‘s jingoistic mayhem will engender against Spring Breakers‘ girls gone wild. Ah, the undeniable rewards of a free market.