Before the screening of the new Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers, the publicist announced that it was “like a dream; just go with it.” (I tend to “just go with” most films, as that’s how they are generally meant to be watched.) Spring Breakers opens with a montage of revelry on, where else, spring break: Young men and women, wearing bathing suits (or sometimes less) bounce with excitement on a sunny beach while mouthing the words “Spring break!” and smiling into the camera—nothing I hadn’t seen on MTV in the last few decades, even when I wasn’t of age to participate. But when the film starts to veer into more R-rated material—topless women bent over backward, their mouths open as men drip beer from cans positioned upon their board shorts like phalluses—it becomes clear that what you’re about to see might be more indecent and unbelievable than an MTV simulcast from Panama City Beach.
The film follows four college-aged girls who break free from the trappings of their deliberately anonymous college campus for the debaucherous freedom offered by St. Petersburg, Florida. The great irony, of course, is that these girls, who seem so desperate to stand out and find a place where they can be themselves, engage in nonconformity in the most stereotypical fashion: They go to the beach to dance in place, drink from beer bongs, and do drugs—sometimes pot, sometimes cocaine, sometimes cocaine off of the bare breasts of faceless co-eds. Selena Gomez’s Faith (yes, she is the “wholesome” one) tries her best to fit in with the crowd, but once the four girls are arrested for their antics, she seems to immediately break from her unconvincing act that anything she has seen is in any way fun. [...]