A former KIDS kid laments bad girl banality
I was once a 12-year-old aspiring juvenile delinquent in a rust belt New England town, and the movie KIDS was my Talmud. A lone NC-17 VHS circulated between latchkey households, and my miscreant friends and I dissected, studied, and memorized the ringer tees, blunt rolling, and gruff sex talk of the impossibly exotic Manhattan creatures with rabbinical fervor. We were KIDS scholars. Harmony Korine’s screenplay inspired me to seek out turnstiles to hop (and places with turnstiles, in general), insouciant hookups to boast of, and pools in which to skinny dip. In my pubescent reality, I mostly just defected from homeroom, huffed my friend’s asthma inhaler, and spirited Wet n’ Wild lipliner from CVS in the pocket of my JNCO jeans. The scared-straight lesson of HIV and wasted potential was lost on me. KIDS was a thrilling and deranged escape.
But 18 years later, Korine is depriving the aspiring juvenile delinquents of America a similarly misguided affectation with Spring Breakers. But it’s not Korine’s fault. Kids who have grown up with the world wide web and Snapchatting their naughty bits to one another will find this film familiar. The tragedy is not the bumping, the grinding, the tits and ass, the bikinis and handcuffs, the caricatures of hip hop thuggery, the girls gone bad. The tragedy of this film is that it’s boring. Teens, rather than being introduced to novel trouble-making, will simply recognize the familiar: Grand Theft Auto-style ballistics, booty shorts, and threesomes ripped from Jersey Shore. Disney princesses flaunting their middle-finger attitudes, just as Lindsay Lohan has done for a decade.
In KIDS, Larry Clark cast unknowns Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny for maximum verisimilitude of downtown-and-dirty New York. Korine does the inverse, plonking teen idols Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez into the roles of blowjob-simulating, pelvisthrusting, coke-snorting lubricious harlots. The contrast is meant to be shocking, but it’s just one of the ham-fisted and wholly banal juxtapositions throughout the film: A girl calling grandma to say what an amazing time she’s having over montages of beer funnel debauchery, the innocent white kid beach party fun cut into the menacing black strip club, the girls ballerina twirling to a Britney ballad in balaclavas. These contrasts don’t make one clutch one’s pearls, or voyeuristically get off on being offended. The dualisms are too obvious. One craves an asthma inhaler to huff.
A bright-ish part of the film is James Franco’s Riff Raff-inspired rapper Alien. Franco’s southern drawl sounds like Forrest Gump with a mouthful of bologna, and his reprise of “Sprayng Brayke” repeats like a chilidog belch. What I would have loved to have seen, however, was the Hearts of Darkness-style documentary of the story behind Spring Breakers: The song lyric boot camp the young extras endured to memorize and chant Alien’s rap lyrics; the shame they surely felt when they kept messing up; the chafing that must have occurred from so many hours spent in cheap swimwear; the madness that descended upon the editing room after the thousandth voiceover of “Sprang Brayke, betches!”
In other words, something earthy and naughty for pert scoundrels to emulate, rather than a bizarre fantasy from the green glow of Internet porn. In other words, something to give the kids some inspiration.