It's hard to describe this movie in any way that would make the average person want to see it- I guarantee you a lot of people won't make it through the first 40 minutes (I myself was struggling for a while). But if you are going to venture onto this wild ride through the surrealist underbelly of Florida "spring break culture" (if there is such a thing), it's around the 40-minute mark that James Franco makes his entrance, and he gives such a mesmerizing and memorable performance that it just might make the journey worth it.
Harmony Korine (writer of the notorious Kids from 1995) definitely wants to give you an experience with this film, which takes four college girls from so-called normalcy to dark and nightmarish depths, and this movie is filmed with an undeniable energy and vivid color palette that more or less succeeds in enveloping you as part of the intoxicating experience of spring break (I was actually getting dizzy at times in the first half hour). The girls include Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as part of this quartet (the irony is undoubtedly intentional) who are so obsessed with going to Florida for spring break that they rob a chicken shack for the money with no scruples about it whatsoever.
Then they make it to Florida and here's where the exhausting nature of Korine's style really goes overboard with the dizzying, flashing and excessive montage scenes of drugs and partying. It's hard to discern any kind of a story for a while, even if the filmmaking is immediate and immersive- you feel you're being sucked into a vortex, which I'm sure is exactly what you're supposed to feel. But right at the moment where you can't take much more of this, James Franco walks in as "Alien," the wannabe gangsta rapper and drug dealer, armed with a heavy artillery and one serious grill as he bails the girls out of jail and seduces them with his boasting and obsession with material success and violence (which they've already shown a propensity for). He's absolutely electric in the part, very nearly disappearing into this insane character, and if we ourselves can't take our eyes off of him, it only makes sense that the girls would be drawn in too. It's here that the story takes a dark turn and starts to go somewhere, even if that destination is unpredictable and filled to the brim with silly excess and Britney Spears songs set to violent, slow-motion montages.
What's Korine trying to say with this film? I couldn't tell you, although there are seeds of all kinds of messages to read into it if you want- from the debauchery of the American college kid to the violence that goes hand in hand, and the attraction of young women who seem to run in packs toward the dominant alpha male who ultimately proves himself useless, as the women assert the control they've exhibited all along. If there really is such a thing as "great trash," that's what this movie is really trying to be (it seems to be influenced in part by a movie like Wild Things), and to that end it's mostly successful, although I couldn't say it was exactly pleasant or takes you to a place most people would ever want to go. Still, there's something to be said for boldness and originality, and the attempt to embrace all these loosely related ideas together in one hallucinatory fever dream- which is probably the best term to describe Spring Breakers in the end.