He Said/He Said

‘Spring Breakers’: Wish-Fulfillment Fantasy or Vacuous Booze, Bikini, Bullets Fest?

Marlow Stern and Ramin Setoodeh argue over Harmony Korine’s ‘Spring Breakers,’ which opens nationwide today.

Spring Breakers, filmmaker Harmony Korine’s gonzo send-up of pop culture, expands to 1,000 theaters nationwide on March 22.

The film centers on a group of four libidinous, broke college girls, played by ex-Disney starlets Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars), and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife), who hope to unleash their hedonistic side down in Florida for spring break. In order to bankroll the trip, three of them rob a diner armed with squirt guns and a mini-sledgehammer, and the bikini-clad quartet heads down South for some fun in the sun. Things take a nasty turn when they fall in with a white rapper/pseudo-gangster, Alien (James Franco), who recruits the gals into his drugs-and-guns inner circle.

Korine burst onto the scene in 1995 when he penned the cult film Kids, about the plight of urban teens in New York City during the AIDS crisis, and has since directed a variety of bizarre fare, including Gummo, Julien Donkey Boy, and Trash Humpers—a movie filmed on VHS centered on an elderly group of hell-raisers who literally hump trash. He is a filmmaking provocateur whose form-breaking oeuvre sharply divides both critics and viewers, and Spring Breakers is no exception. The Daily Beast’s two film writers, Marlow Stern and Ramin Setoodeh, strongly disagree on the film. Whereas Marlow feels it’s a bizarrely brilliant pop-culture wish-fulfillment fantasy featuring a fantastic turn from James Franco as a hood-rat Gatsby with a Southern drawl, Ramin thinks it’s a vacuous affair that’s all bikinis, booze, and bullets.