By Matt Singer | Criticwire September 5, 2012 at 10:33AM
It's harder to find Twitter reactions to Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" than just about any other title at the Venice Film Festival. For every genuine reaction -- like this one from Neil Young calling it "'Wild Things' meets 'Project X'" -- there's fifty Selena Gomez fans and spambots to wade through -- like this one from "SelGomezDopest" raving, in true-blue believer fashion, that "Selena didn't do 'Spring Breakers' for the critics she did it for herself. But the critics are still giving her and the movie amazing reviews." There are hundreds of these teeny bopper "great reviews for 'Spring Breakers!'" tweets -- and almost no actual reviews to speak of, great or otherwise. In other words, the famous teen actress cast -- which also includes Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson -- has built a massive level of anticipation around a Harmony Korine movie, a strange scenario given the fact that the man's last project was a found footage jumble about a bunch of old weirdos humping trash.
According to Tommaso Tocci's review at Press Play, the excitement for "Spring Breakers" sparked the longest lines of the Venice Film Festival, and Korine, he says, "did not disappoint... Those who came to see the aforementioned young stars partying and making a mess of their college spring break found exactly that -- only cranked up to eleven, speeding past darkness to reach a kind of deranged grotesque. On the other hand, those who came for Korine found the director’s trademark themes bathed in glittering softness, apparently downplayed even in the undeniable aesthetic of excess on display here." The young women in the cast may be getting all the attention, but Tocci was most pleased by the work of James Franco, here appearing as a dreadlocked gangster who hooks up with Gomez, Hudgens, and Benson -- along with a fourth character played by Korine's wife, Rachel -- after they're busted at a house party on spring break. "Once the girls get to St. Petersburg," he writes, "it’s suddenly the James Franco show."
At The Playlist, Oliver Lyttelton agrees, calling Franco's performance "one of the actor's best to date." "He doesn’t appear in any substance until nearly halfway through," Lyttelton adds, "but his Florida Fagin is enormously entertaining. Buried under corn-rows and metal teeth, Franco plays Alien like Matthew McConaughey doing an impression of Lil ‘Jon (it’ll make sense when you see us, trust us…), a curiously charming and childlike gangster." All right, yeah, I can see that. Lyttelton gives the film a B, but warns folks lining up hoping to catch "Spring Breakers"' stars in moments of extreme debauchery that there's "nothing truly dangerous" onscreen. That'll probably come as quite a relief to SelGomezDopest.
In The Telegraph, Robbie Collin concurs, noting that "beneath its Terry Richardson-esque porn chic surface, 'Spring Breakers' is no racier than a mainstream Hollywood teen comedy," even going so far as to describe the film's content as "depressingly tame" in the sex and violence department. Collin had better things to say about Korine's personal touches -- his "wicked sense of humor" and "motifs borrowed from earlier films (masks, nonsense songs, clowning)" -- which make the film "a success on its own art house exploitation terms." Derek Malcolm greeted the film with similarly mixed-to-positive sentiments in The Evening Standard, declaring it "pretty good trash" that's "not trashily made, with apt performances all round and music and cinematography that suits it perfectly."
But I guess none of that really matters anyway, since Selena didn't do "Spring Breakers" for the critics -- she did it for herself. And, no doubt, the fans, who will definitely get the chance to see it, as "Spring Breakers" was just acquired for U.S. distribution by Annapurna Pictures. Next up, though, is the film's North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Better get in line for the screening early.