What goes through your head when you read the names Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson? For people who follow pop culture the first word that comes to mind is the word Disney. Often for filmmakers the words “pre-packaged Disney kids stuff” or some variation there upon is what they say. In either case it is something that can put people off when those names pop up on the metaphorical marquee of a film’s cast list. They can take a step back and say ‘you know what, that’s not for me’ without even giving the film a chance.
Suppose I were to add another name to that list. What if the next name on that list was Harmony Korine? I imagine there would be a few filmmakers reading this who would suddenly find themselves more interested. Those who might be somewhat less initiated should know that Harmony Korine’s film credits include such ground breaking and somewhat controversial films as “Kids”, “Mister Lonely” and “Trash Humpers”. Names which carry a bit more weight in the indie scene then some of the films associated with the previous four names I mentioned above. Of course this broader scope will lead people to another negative comment which sounds like “Oh look, a bunch of Disney sweethearts trying to break out of their squeaky clean image by being edgy and shocking people”. And this always leads me to... why the heck is that?
Why do we as a society, and in particular filmmakers, automatically jump to such conclusions about the people involved in a project if their history is one that is associated with Disney? Why do we place people like Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson inside these boxes when history tells us that they are going to try and break out of them eventually? Perhaps those boxes we put them in never really existed in the first place. Maybe these actors were always serious about their work and we just couldn’t see it because we’d rather shove them in a corner. The film industry is a brutal business. No matter where you get your start, whether it’s Disney or through some other aspect of the industry, you don’t get into it unless you’re serious about succeeding. Does it really matter where that success comes from?
I try not to carry any such baggage into a film when I go to see one, which doesn’t mean that I don’t have any such baggage when going into a film. It is often the actors or filmmakers involved in the film that will lead me to wanting to see it in the first place. There’s no denying it plays a role in the decision making process of putting my rather limited funds into buying a ticket. But when I sit in the seat and settle in to watch, I try to let that experience stand on its own. A lot of people out there will have to try and do that in order to get them in that seat, but if they can then they will be pleasantly surprised. If they can’t, then by the end of the film they will be forced to reevaluate what I think is a fundamentally flawed perspective on the actors involved.
Because I honestly believe there’s no other way to come out of this film. The story is such a fascinating and well told one. The actors so very clearly embody the roles they play. Of particular note is James Franco in the role of the gangster named Alien, but I don’t think that his performance works without the great work of the other four young actors who accompany him. Spring Breakers is smart, funny, disturbing and emotional, sometimes all at once in a really beautiful way.
That doesn’t happen without the solid and emotionally honest performances of his co-stars. Harmony Korine is known for edgy and controversial films, and Spring Breakers is no exception. There are a number of scenes which are difficult to watch and the fact of the actors involved makes it fairly controversial. What sets this film apart is the way in which the event of spring break and the story become so well integrated.
He spoke during the Q&A about the idea of micro scenes and repetitiveness to tell the story he is trying to tell, but I would liken it to a deliberate attempt to give the audience an experience much like spring break itself. The non linear micro scenes and repetitiveness give you the feeling of a drunken, drug filled orgy of sex and violence masterfully controlled from the filming, editing and post-production. And so...Anyone up for partying with Spring Breakers? I don’t know about you, but I had a rocking good time.