Lauded filmmaker Harmony Korine returns, holding a neon-tinted magnifying glass up to the hyper-sexed, spoiled and dissatisfied youth of today. His shape-shifting cast consists of teen good girls, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, gone bad in bikinis, while James Franco dons cornrows and a grill on his teeth to transform into a not-fully-realised villain.
The four college students hightail it to Tampa, not before robbing a fast food restaurant with plastic guns and ski masks in order to fund their trip. They bask in over-indulgence and self-involved, short-term bliss, which soon spirals downwards as the group break apart and suffer the realities of a life of Beer Pong gone wrong.
Korine proclaimed that this quartet of girls was his “dream” cast. While there are flickers of dramatic hope in Gomez, cast as the catholic and chaste, cringe-worthily named Faith, she is as Disney Princess as ever in a film that was shot while she was still on the arm of the biggest teen heartthrob on the planet.
Good acting chops come in the form of Korine’s wife, Rachel, who plays Cotty, though there are slight nuances that she is the only one fully committed to the role and is often used as filler or example. Vanessa Hudgens is as unlikeable an actress as always, seen here determined to shed her Disney skin by cocking hand gun signals and using as many swear words per sentence as possible.
The real star is Ashley Benson (Brit), who has a killer look in her eyes, convincingly capable of corruption and violence without remorse. Kudos to Franco, who transformed for the role of Alien, and committed to the character of a thug/rapper who knows no better and doesn’t even know much really to begin with. His confused character is part-villain, part-saviour, which he does play with finesse.
A real feeling of unrealism unfolds throughout as, save for coincidence, it’s too far-fetched that this toxic spiral of events could occur over the bones of a standard week away from college. You easily acquire a professor’s truck and commit night-time robbery one day; the very next you’re toting guns, wearing ski masks and surrounded by drugs?
I understand where Korine is coming from. Being the age these characters are and growing up in a Grand Theft Auto, internet-addicted generation, I agree that lines have become far more blurred than what they used to be. Korine makes a convincing argument of how easy it is to blur the lines of fiction and reality, as lost students find either themselves or the next adrenaline hit to numb the pain – whichever comes easiest. Overall, it’s an eye-opening, yet depressing and pessimistic commentary on the youth of today.
Watch it to get lost in the boisterous imagery and live vicariously through a bunch of characters that no one is rooting for, who you are waiting for to all get their comeuppance. But don’t be fooled by the unrealistic and unbelievable tale Korine tries to tell.