Harmony Korine, 2012
#18, 2013 Skandies
So the gimmick here is that a bunch of Disney Channel alumnae were cast against type as party girls snorting cocaine off each other, but that gimmick was kind of lost on me given that I've never watched the Disney Channel. Fortunately, Solange was gracious enough to watch this with me and fill me in on who we were looking at. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our reactions to the movie. (Warning: spoilers of virtually every scene.)
Overture: topless sorority girls and fauxhawked fratboys cavort on the beach in slo-mo. The beer bong to person ratio is somewhere on the order of 3:5. Alternately lilting and aggressive dance music blasts on the soundtrack.
Ah, this brings me back to my college days
They were just like this
|S||Isn't that the truth for all of us|
Indoors, with red lighting. Two swarthy dudes smoke pot with two blonde girls while a pink-haired girl sleeps on the couch.
Aha, Vanessa Hudgens comes in with a bong
She is one of the blondes
|A||Is she a Disney Channel person|
High School Musical
Ashley Benson is the other blonde
She's in Pretty Little Liars
|A||I have never heard of her or that show|
A college lecture hall. A history professor holds forth to a dark auditorium full of students, each sitting behind a laptop. The two blondes write notes to each other about, and accompanied by drawings of, penises, and simulate fellatio upon the drawings.
Students are constantly doing this in the classes I audit
|S||Ha ha, oh god|
|A||Actually, this is less distracting than what they really do|
Church. A middle-aged man with a distinctive blond haircut asks a group of young people whether they are "jacked up on Jesus". One of the young people is a strikingly beautiful girl with long dark hair.
|A||This guy looks like Larry Bird|
|S||Selena Gomez is the brunette|
Oh, I have heard that name before
Who is she (aside from Justin Bieber's ex)
Is she another Disney Channel person
Yes, she was in a show called Wizards of Waverly Place
She was the annoying little sister, I think
She's mostly known for her music now
Five more minutes of partying, first at a frathouse, and then in the hall of the girls' dorm.
|A||I'm having trouble following the complex plot|
The girls complain about not having enough money to go on spring break so they can party.
They could just stay here and party
There appear to be many parties here
Selena Gomez explains! "I'm so tired of seeing the same things every single day. Everybody's miserable here because everybody sees the same things — they wake up in the same bed, same houses, same depressing streetlights…"
So she's the goth
Are there still goths
Ashley Benson says, "I'm not going to sit here another day! I'm not going to sit in the same fucking classroom!"
That classroom seems pretty nice!
I have certainly seen worse
|S||They just want to go on spring break and see different classrooms|
Traveling across the country to sit in a different history lecture is something I would do
A montage of the girls smoking and exhaling onto each other's faces such that they're almost kissing.
|S||13 minutes in and I'm still not convinced that this isn't weird aesthetic porn|
Three of the girls (not Selena) decide to get their spring break money by robbing a diner. How will they get up the courage to actually do this? "Act like you're in a movie or somethin'," Vanessa says over a soundtrack of bleeps, bloops, and blorps.
|S||Whoa, so meta|
|A||Music by Atari|
The pink-haired girl is the only one who isn't famous
I'm concerned for her life
See, that is the kind of outside knowledge I didn't have!
The three of them put on ski masks, and Vanessa and Ashley hold up the diner with fake guns and real mallets. Pink drives the stolen getaway car. No one dies.
Bootyshorts are clearly the best hold-up attire
Perhaps they're going straight to spring break after this
But no — they wait until the next day (collecting Selena off camera). Spring break turns out to be a grand total of thirty miles away, as the party bus takes them from Sarasota, just south of Tampa, up the 275 to the St. Pete Beach / Treasure Island area, just west of Tampa. "We finally got to see some other parts of the world," Selena says in a voiceover telephone call to her grandmother as we watch more of the wild beach party footage from the overture. A minute later: "We'll always remember this trip. I want to go back again next year with you!"
Did she just tell her grandma that she wants to bring her to spring break next year
|A||That appears to be the case|
The four of them join a big crowd of spring breakers watching a rap show:
"I was laying on the beach, y'all
There's palm trees, y'all
This is the room of the world, y'all
You can change your life, you can change who you are, y'all
You just got hypnotized and transported to another realm, y'all
And this lasts forever! We're gonna change the world, y'all
Big booties and money falling, y'all
Bikinis and big booties, y'all
That's what life is about, spring break forever, y'all!"
Ah, yes, White-Guy-With-Cornrows
|A||It's easy to rhyme when every line ends with "y'all"|
This is straight poetry
He is Dropping some Verse
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day, y'all
Thou art more lovely and more temperate, y'all
More shots of the four girls driving scooters together, hugging in a swimming pool, sitting in a row with their arms around each other, etc.
Ah, I see. This movie is about Friendship
Maybe some ponies will come out of the woodwork soon
More partying. Then — cut to Vanessa and Ashley watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic on a netbook.
OH MY GOD
|A||You called it!|
They sit in a convenience store parking lot, drinking and chattering.
|A||"I want something different! A different convenience store parking lot to sit in!"|
The three who robbed the diner tell Selena about their exploits. Selena looks disturbed. "You gotta learn, man," they tell her. "It's amazing. Stick with us. It's the best way to live, man. And you'll be a goonie too. And you'll have all this power and you'll have all the money you want."
|A||Oh, so this movie is about peer pressure|
Still more loud, lurid partying.
|S||I think maybe it's about seeing how many lady butts they can fit on camera at the same time|
To increase the sense of chaos, quick cuts among different camera types: some black and white, some blurry, some that reduce the image to a swarm of colored dots.
|A||Cinematography by Georges Seurat|
The police arrive and arrest our girls. Initially it looks like it might be for the robbery, but it soon becomes clear that it's just drug charges. They doze in their holding cell, and Selena reminisces about their spring break up to this point, as we watch some footage from slightly earlier in the movie.
|A||She's flashing back to those good times from, like, six minutes ago|
Well, judging by all those fun times they had, they probably needed this well-deserved nap
Maybe not the jail bit
The girls are arraigned (in their bikinis) and sent back to do two days in county jail (in their bikinis).
|A||Is it standard practice for a prisoner to serve her entire sentence in a colorful two-piece|
Maybe they just busted too many spring breakers
Ran out of jail outfits
The rapper from earlier pays the girls' fine, and they are freed.
I just figured it out — he's James Franco
I hate James Franco
|A||All I know about James Franco is that he was in the "my hand is trapped under a rock" movie|
James Franco and his associates are all wearing shiny metal plates over their teeth.
|A||Are those things called "grillz"|
|S||I think so|
|A||I read about those things in the newspaper like twenty years ago but had never seen them|
James Franco talks about his life as a rapper, arms dealer, and drug kingpin. "I've done about every illegal activity under the sun!"
|A||"None of my mattresses still have the tags on them!"|
Selena is clearly very uncomfortable with this felonious creep. When he takes the four of them (still in their bikinis) to a pool hall full of black gangsters, she decides to bail. "I'm going home! I don't like it here! This is just too weird! This is not what we came here for!"
|S||"We came here to party with WHITE people!"|
Selena is crying now, protesting that they came here to have fun. "This is fun! Why are you crying?" one of the other girls asks. Selena weeps, "I don't know these people, and we were in jail, and this guy that I don't even know checks us out of the jail, and then he says all this weird stuff and then brings us here with these people, like, touching us and talking to us and I don't know them, and I don't feel comfortable. I want to go home."
|S||"I want to be with the naked girls on the beach!"|
|A||I bet Grandma wouldn't be flipping out like this|
|S||Grandma would be chill|
James Franco paws at Selena's face while Selena protests, "I don't know you."
|A||Selena vs. Stranger Danger|
|S||Maybe that's what this movie is about — Stranger Danger|
A brief shot of a dog. (Solange hearts dogs.)
There's a dog for you
I bet your review will be, "A tearful Selena Gomez was pawed by a creepy cornrow man, but there was a dog. Two thumbs up!"
James Franco attempts to manipulate Selena into staying, and the other girls apply peer pressure, but Selena is too freaked out. The next morning she gets on the bus back to Sarasota.
|A||Wait, does her T-shirt also have dogs on it?|
|S||I missed it! :(|
|A||Ironically, this bus plunges off an overpass, while James Franco and the other girls sit around a campfire eating s'mores for the rest of the movie|
Night. James Franco drives the remaining three girls down a street lined with motels and fast food joints.
Sweet license plate
|A||Also the name of the social media app he's developing|
James Franco shows off the rewards the gangster life has brought him. "This is the fuckin' American dream, y'all. This is my fuckin' dream, y'all. All this shit. Look at my shit! I got, I got shorts, every fuckin' color! I got designer T-shirts. I got gold bullets, motherfuckin' vampires. I got Scarface, on repeat. Scarface on repeat — constant, y'all! I got Escape, Calvin Klein Escape. Mix that shit up with Calvin Klein Be, smell nice. I SMELL NICE."
|S||I bet he supports Trump|
Clearly this is set in the near future, during the Trump administration
As you can see, he made America great again
James Franco stands on his bed, which is covered in money and guns.
Safety seems to be an issue here
I don't trust the guns on the bed
That is because you are from Canada
You just want to deny his Second Amendment rights
|S||I am all about denying rights|
Out of nowhere, James Franco starts talking about his "enemy", a local gang leader.
Is this it? The plot??
56 minutes in???
|A||Is this "enemy" guy also famous|
|S||I don't know him|
Vanessa, and Ashley start playing around with a couple of James Franco's guns, and all at once the two girls have him down on the bed with the guns' silencers halfway down his throat.
|S||Someone is gonna get shot|
|A||Think it'll be Pink?|
|S||Where even is Pink|
|A||That is a very good question|
No one gets shot. In the next scene, Pink has returned.
Oh, I guess she's back
Maybe she was just like
Taking a snack break
The next morning. James Franco plays the piano while the three girls stand around him, brandishing assault weapons and wearing pink ski masks with cartoon unicorn heads on the forehead.
|A||Are those pony ski masks|
I like how he just had three matching ones lying around
|A||A bad guy with three female henchmen in pink unicorn ski masks is like something out of the 1960s Batman TV show|
|S||Where is Batman when we need him|
|A||Batman showing up would be a hell of a twist!|
|S||It really would|
As Britney Spears plays on the soundtrack, James Franco, his male henchmen, and the girls go on a crime spree. At one point, they disrupt a wedding reception and James Franco smashes a multi-tiered cake with the groom's head.
Someone put a lot of effort into that cake
The "enemy" gang leader vows that this is his territory and James Franco must be stopped. Cradling an infant, he snarls, "He's takin' food outta my baby's mouth. My baby's hungry. My baby needs to eat. My baby's starvin'. And we gonna do somethin' about it."
Baby looks adequately fed to me
I see no signs of malnutrition
The gang leader's chief henchwoman strafes James Franco's car. The girls duck down but Pink gets hit.
I expected this
|A||Should've been more famous, Pink|
|S||I hope she got paid well|
|A||She was on another snack break when they went over bullet-dodging strategy|
Pink appears to be gravely wounded.
I'm surprised Selena left first
|A||Maybe when Batman shows up Selena will accompany him as the new Robin|
|S||That would be exciting|
Pink survives! James Franco removes the bullet from the wound, using beer as an antiseptic and marijuana as an anesthetic. After recovering a bit, Pink announces her intention to go home. James Franco promises that he will avenge her.
"So, what'd you do on spring break, Pink?"
"Oh, y'know. Robbed some people. Got shot. Wbu"
Pink gets on the same purple bus back to Sarasota that Selena took.
|A||It is handy that these buses arrive on a regular schedule to ferry away casualties|
As James Franco and company prepare for their assault on the gang, we hear the same voiceover dialogue repeated several times. (The movie has used repeated voiceover dialogue before, usually first as a flash-forward and then again in real time, but this time we hear the same exchanges no fewer than five times.)
|A||Dialogue by Harmony Korine and a Xerox machine|
Vanessa and Ashley put on their neon bikinis and pink unicorn ski masks, while James Franco gathers up firearms.
You'd think if he could spend so much on guns he could also spend a lot on, like, body armour or something
So that they don't have to do their illegal activities in beachwear
Or would that compromise, like, the look
|A||Maybe he figures the best defense is a good offense|
The raid begins. James Franco doesn't last very long…
Oh my god
One shot and he's done
…but Vanessa and Ashley continue the mission and get into multiple firefights yet come out unscathed.
How are they not getting shot
How are they succeeding here
Two girls in bikinis took down a whole houseful of armed gangsters
|A||I guess Vanessa and Ashley are now the new crimelords of the greater Tampa Bay area|
Vanessa and Ashley kiss James Franco's corpse. The end. (At this point I start looking at reviews and other information about the movie and its cast.)
That was messed up
This might have made an okay music video for a song no longer than 3 minutes
Ha ha ha ha ha
You know how you said Pink wasn't famous
I went to see how she got in the movie
She's Harmony Korine's wife
Now it is my turn to go "!!!!"
"Ashley Victoria Benson was born on December 18, 1989, in Anaheim Hills, California"
Not only did I still live in Anaheim Hills on that date, but I see that several of my old teachers were still working when Ashley went through the school system
Hell, I was a substitute teacher in the Anaheim Hills schools for a year — she might have been in one of my classes
|S||Oh my, that's something|
Now I am reading about Selena Gomez
"[on her then-boyfriend, Justin Bieber] 'Yeah, he is romantic. He gave me a bottle of his new perfume the other day.'"
|A||Do you think he sprayed it around and shouted "I SMELL NICE"|
|S||I sure hope so|