OMG, this movie. It’s outrageous and sleazy and cheesy, and there’s a good chance even the Jersey Shore crew will walk out of the theater aghast and shaking their heads in disbelief. Now get ready for the "but." The ultra-provocative tale about the exploits of four party girls — brought to you from Harmony Korine, the same guy who wrote 1995’s Kids, a haunting exploration of teens and AIDS — is also hypnotic to the core.
Not that the plot is a primal concern, but let’s just hash it out anyway. Four cash-strapped college pals — Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine (Harmony’s wife), Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez — long to head to St. Petersburg Florida for their vacation. Solution? Rob a restaurant with fake guns! "Just act like it’s a video game. Pretend you’re in a movie," assures one in a pre-crime pep talk.
Once they reach their beachy destination, the girls cavort around in their bright bikinis and enjoy some fun in the sun. Wellll...more like jaw-droppingly engrossing, sexed-up 24/7 debauchery. Gomez partakes in the action then makes hilariously earnest phone calls home ("Hi Grandma!"). Dirty blondes Benson, Hudgens and Karmine, meanwhile, are essentially interchangeable as they drink and hook up and do cocaine and vomit and pass out.
In case you’re keeping score, that’s two former Disney stars and one ABC Family actress who have blatantly ripped their good-girl images to shreds in under an hour. Though to be fair, Gomez’s religious character, the aptly named Faith, keeps her shirt on and is the most sedate of the bunch. She also ducks out of the festivities early and heads home on a bus. Translation: Faith is a buzzkill. See ya!
Just when it seems like the trippy, florescent whirl of boobs and bongs is getting monotonous, the movie takes a twisted turn. The girls get thrown in jail and are bailed out by a cornrowed meth dealer/rapper named Alien, played by James Franco. (Though Franco seemed bored and withdrawn in Oz: The Great and Powerful, he fully throws himself into his krazy-with-a-k, Scarface-obsessed character here). Alien takes the girls under his heavily tattooed wing and turns them into his own personal crime molls. The guns are real this time.
Yes, this portrait of youthful excess is morally bankrupt. No, Michelle Obama will not announce its name as the best picture Oscar winner in 2014. And if none of the above seems even remotely intriguing, just stick it out for the surreal piece de resistance: In one scene, the girls, wearing matching hot-pink sweat suits and ski masks and toting guns, dance around a shirtless Franco as he tinkles a Britney Spears ballad on a white piano at the beach just as the sun sets. Trashtastic!