Spring break has been a tradition particularly among the American collegiate crowd but it really didn’t take quite the format or scope that persists today in large part as a result of a 1960 movie; ‘Where the Boys are’. After those students engaging in a as diaspora to southern climes has become an annual ritual observed by millions of students. Over the years a high spirited romp to a bacchanalian tribute to unbounded hedonism that whole make the emperor Nero green with envy.it has also spawned a number of films and television shoes that primarily focus on the excesses of sex and drugs. Let’s just say that maternity services and rehabilitation facilities have a boon in business the following autumn. One of the most recent offerings not only reinforces this unbridled ode to excess but has generated more than the usual controversy, ‘Spring Break’, has now hit the home theater market.
A quartet of college students, Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) have been close friends since grade school. They want to celebrate the upcoming spring break by traveling to the sunny climes of Florida together. In a circumstance known all too well to many college students the major impediment to their plans is financing. Since the idea of getting a job is too conventional the only course of action that occurs to them is criminal in nature. Brit and Candy execute the robbery of a local fast food joint employing ultra-realistic water pistols. Although appalled by the illegality resulting from her staunch Christian beliefs is somewhat overcome and she consents to drive the getaway car following up by sharing the ill-gotten gains by going to Florida with her friends.
The scenes taking place in Florida is everything the audience has come to expect of spring break revelries; wild parties, random sex and excessive binge drinking. The use of such irresponsible and our right dangerous behavior typically attracts media attention under any circumstances but the curriculum vitae of several of the main cast members has intensified the ire brought against the film. Ms Gomez and Ms Hudgens both came to the attention of the media and established a strong, faithful fan base with age appropriate Disney projects, ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ and the ‘High School Musical trilogy’ respectively. Typical of stars moving away from childhood fame these young actresses are forced to reinvent themselves. While this is certainly not the only pathway to achieve adult successes taking parts requiring stronger language, smoking, drinking and flaunting their burgeoning sexuality is a very common one; it did work for another Disney groomed ‘Princesses’, Anne Hathaway’. What is important here is not to condemn the actresses for yielding under the pressure exerted by the industry but for parents to be aware this film may have TV-PG stars but it is a hard ‘R’ in content. I have seen reports of children with their parent attending showings. Don’t blame the theater owner or ticket taker, ‘R’ is no one under 17 UNLESS accompanied by a parent; the grown-up should have researched the content prior to going to the theater.
The girls are arrested, another common spring break rite of passage, only to be bailed out by, Alien (James Franco) a wannabe rapper and gangster hailing from St. Petersburg. The relatively still good girl, Faith, is uncomfortable with the lavish life style Alien surrounds himself with. Brit, Candy and Cotty, on the other hand fall under his corrupting influence and join him in his cadre of criminals. Alien has a rival who frequents a strip club, Big Arch (Gucci Mane) who escalates the animosity with a drive by shooting targeting Alien injuring Cotty. This is one step towards a redemptive point. There are repercussions involved with breaking the law and the hedonism that pervades spring break does not extend in any fashion to excuse violent felonies. This slight reprieve is short lived though as a sexual relationship and subsequent plans for revenge soon clouds what little common sense remains in these girls and violence once again bubbles up.
The plot of this movie does bear a striking to the 2001 flick, ‘Sugar and Spice’ following the travails of a cheerleader squad embarking on a string of bank robberies. The film is from an interesting, albeit odd filmmaker, Harmony Korine. Yes it’s his daughter playing one of the four young ladies. His career has always been accompanied by controversy often mixed with a showcase for bright new actors. His opening opus, ‘Kids’ took an unblinking look at teen sexuality, AIDS and the skater culture in Washington Square Park in New York City. Considered powerful and difficult to watch it was instrumental in jump starting the careers of Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson. He subsequently became involved with the excessively restrictive Dogma-95 movement. While I never embraced it as anything more than an interesting teaching exercise I felt it side tracked Korine, stunting his talent. It was interesting to catch up with his work now that Dogma-95 is behind hm.
He retained a straightforward approach not permitting him to become distracted by the many potential sub plots that could have overshadowed the main story. Gomez works the hardest at retaining her Disney persona of the basically good girl with a potentially mischievous streak. Korine appears to have gotten much of his shock for its own sake elements of his style out of his system permitting him to guide a group of truly talented young actresses into the next stage of their careers. To reiterate a previously made point there are many ways for a child star to reinvent themselves without resorting to any extreme ‘playing against type’ role but these young women selected this method and at least had management sufficiently involved with retaining a positive image to select a film with a known writer/director and a plot worth watching. While the movie falls short of achieving all its goals I found it to be well crafted and expertly executed as a dramatic comedy. This is in itself exceedingly rare for a spring break film. There is the underlying theme of the corruption of innocence that pervades the film holding it together. While not for the traditional demographic garnered by this cast it does introduce the actresses and their older fans to the next phase in their still viable careers.