I have real sympathy for anyone who went to see this film thinking they were going to see a normal, linear actiony-comedy movie. Because what Harmony Korine has done is made one of the most expensive experimental art films that has been released in recent years.
The story of four college women (girls) who go "wild" on spring break, get arrested, and then hook up with a gangster rapper is a pretty simple one. But the real film is in the telling of the story. When the film opens we're inundated with the debauchery of spring break. It's both titillating and sad. This is where the girls want to go to? And they can't even afford it. So they turn to robbery. In a normal Hollywood film, this heist would be glamorized to the nth degree. Here it's hidden the first time we see it - we catch glimpses here and there. But when we see it in flashback, it's what it probably would look like in real life - ugly. But Spring Break is the objective, so off they go. Drinking and drugs and promiscuity are the main courses, and eventually it catches up to them, and they're carted off to jail.
At which point it becomes the James Franco show. As the gangster rapper Alien, Franco creates a character that is so hypnotic that any of the films previous faults (like lethargy) are completely forgiven. He is a captivating monster. Every time he appears onscreen or says something you feel like you're in for a treat.
This movie has been advertised on the strength of its leading ladies. For a lot of young 'uns, seeing Selena Gomez or Vanessa Hudgens cavorting in bikinis and waving guns is more than enough to get them to the theater. But their characters are barely even characters. Almost all the girls are interchangeable, with Gomez given at least the tiniest bit of backstory to differentiate herself from the others.
And that may be the point. The less we care about the characters the more the film can just objectify them. As I said, the film is not the most linear of pieces. With time jumps, hand held cameras, and repeated lines the film is less interested in story than it is in style. I may never care what the girls' story is, but I was swept up in their escapades.
I left the theater thinking that about 80 percent of the audience probably hated the film, thinking they were hoodwinked. But that other 20 percent had their minds blown by the fact that they thought they were going to see "girls gone wild with guns" and got something they would never see on their own. And then they had the added attraction of seeing James Franco with enough grill in his mouth to rival that of Lil' John.
Was Harmony Korine playing a joke on us using "innocent" actresses in a movie that glamorizes debauchery and violence? Probably. But it was at least a funny and clever joke.