I’m not much of a Harmony Korine fan to say the least, so if “Springbreakers” — at the Toronto Film Festival– had turned out to be “Kids” but set in St. Petersburg Florida on spring break, I would have left the theater. (I thought “Kids” was vile and still do.)
However, into this extremely much better made Korine film comes James Franco, after about twenty minutes. And then he steals the movie, at the same raising it to a much higher level than anything to which it aspired as the white rapper, drug dealing Alien. He’s a keeper, a classic character from any repetoire.
Mind you Korine’s film has plenty of soft core sex and borderline porn. It also essentially deflowers two young actress-celebrities from the tabloids– Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. The former has an actual role as a good girl who resists going bad (although I do think Justin Bieber will have disturbing dreams after seeing this movie, poor thing.) Hudgens is there although makes less of a mark.
But “Springbreakers” is all about Alien, and all about Franco. The actor breathes life into the movie. Alien is like a big helium balloon who keeps getting bigger and bigger until he finally pops. Franco, shirtless and covered with tattoos, also sports a silver “grill” on his teeth, cornrows, and has a condo where he stores a significant amount of drugs and weapons. He’s not Tony Montana from “Scarface,” whom he idolizes. He’s more like the freakazoid version. Alien is also goofy — sort of a psychopath with a heart of gold.
Yes, this is “Where the Boys Are 2012” except with a lot of violence and much reference to fellatio. It’s got a targeted demo of 18-28 and no sign of Paula Prentiss that’s for sure. But EOne, which has the film, should find a partner willing to launch a campaign for Franco. Alien is a memorable portrayal, and one that could do a lot of damage this winter to the awards season.
Franco is getting criticism for trying too many things at once–art, school, film, soap operas. But “Springbreakers” shows why he has his Oscar nomination and and other awards. He is top notch in his generation, a very serious actor first and foremost.