Ever since I first heard that Harmony Korine would be directing a “drug-and-violence fueled bacchanal” starring former Disney princesses Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson, I knew I had to see it. Man, I wanted to see it badly enough to wake up early and try to score same-day tickets at TIFF. (I just narrowly missed the cut-off window.) I’ve kept occasional tabs on the film since then, knowing that it would open in theatres sometime around Spring Break. It turned out to be a week late (unless you live in NYC or LA), but that still gave me time to catch it while it was still playing in the cinema; I certainly don’t envision a lengthy cinematic run, despite the media attention its stars are getting on Entertainment Tonight, etc.
Another thing I’ve wanted for a long time is a Five Guys burger. They recently opened their first Toronto location at Yonge & Dundas, in a space partially vacated by the HMV Megastore. It’s been there since last summer, but I hadn’t had a chance to go… until today. You could say it was a match made on a drug-and-violence fueled bacchanal in St. Petersburg, Florida–or something like that.
Anyways, Five Guys Yonge St has a light-up sign in homage to the former Sam the Record Man next door, albeit on a much smaller scale. Their open-concept establishment contains ample seating that allows you to watch what’s going on behind the grill. The chalkboard proudly states that their potatoes come from Alberton, PEI, and there are several bags stacked near the entrance for your spud-porn pleasure. It’s not much of a mystery as to how they got there–after all, the people of PEI have a key to the city. Thanks, Mel Lastman!
Anyhoo, I had the double-cheeseburger with regular-sized Cajun fries and an iced tea. The spread looked a little something like this:
There are testaments on the wall as to how amazing the burgers are, and hey, they don’t disappoint. Two thick, juicy patties with an abundance of free fresh toppings that enhance the palette; the sharpness of the pickles, the smoothness of the mushrooms (I loves me some mushroom burgers!), the almost-overpowering kick of the jalapenos. It occurred to me that most places use banana peppers, not jalapenos, as burger toppings, and I was quickly reminded why between extended swigs of soda.
As for the fries, well, I think going Cajun-style mighta been a mistake. The seasoning was a little too salty, ruining the taste of an otherwise perfect PEI potato. And for the record, there were a lot more fries than seen above; just about as many in the paper bag as were in the paper cup. They apparently don’t do trays at this place…
Anyways, while the food was all quite tasty–Cajun fries aside–the price was a little steep at $16 for the combo. You’ll hafta take full advantage of all the free toppings, free peanuts and free refills to really get your money’s worth.
By comparison, paying 13 bucks to see the movie was almost a steal. For my money’s worth, this is Korine’s best work–and not just because it’s showing at a Cineplex. Suffice to say it was a major step up from his last production, Trash Humpers, which I actually saw at the Scotiabank Theatre (during TIFF, mind you). That one definitely didn’t receive a widespread theatrical release…
So you’re a former Disney Channel actress who’s now reached adulthood and is trying to avoid being typecast as a high-school cheerleader or a princess. What better way to break the mould than by appearing as a homicidal, drug-addicted, sex-crazed coed in various states of undress for 94 minutes? At least, I assume that’s how this film was pitched to its female leads. As for Franco, who plays a semi-parodic white-boy version of Lil Wayne meets Tony Montana, one can only assume he was high when he first read the script.
Don’t get me wrong, as laugh-out-loud ridiculous as Franco’s “Alien” character is, he’s probably the most well-acted. Only Gomez, who serves as sort of an early narrator, is really given any depth–and she gets sent home early. The other girls sure look real purdy giving their bedroom eyes in teeny bikinis, but aside from their hair-trigger urges to commit armed robbery, these characters are fairly one-dimensional.
That being said, the cinematography is simply stunning. Korine opens with a montage of Girls Gone Wild-style tits ‘n cheap beer to make it clear that this isn’t a Disney movie, and includes more crotch shots than a Globe and Mail cover. The actresses are clearly portrayed as sex objects–but no more so than the crazy college girls you’d see in *insert freshman guy comedy here,* only these aren’t bit players, rather the stars of the show. But the initial premise that these sex-starved sluts, who draw penises during a lecture about Hitler (to some degree of amusement) are so desperate to escape their college town for Spring Break that they’ll rob every place on Main Street seems a little flimsy, at best.
That being said, the storyline gets somewhat stronger, if equally surreal, in the second half, after the girls are bailed out of jail by Franco’s Weezy Scarface. This is where the movie takes a dark turn, from spring-break escapism to the seedy underworld of a popular tourist spot. And unlike a Hollywood action film full of car chases and explosions, the slow pacing and extended repetition (a Korine trademark) simply build tension to a final scene that’s almost on par with Django Unchained–albeit without the prevailing sense of social justice. (Let’s just say that it’s the black folks who get shot.)
Of course, in watching this film, one can’t help but be reminded that the bikini-clad killers on screen were once the stars of High School Musical, Pretty Little Liars and Barney & Friends. (Barney was actually Gomez’s first big break.) There’s a whole subtext here about pushing the Disney girls to their limits. Gomez, the youngest and least removed from her Disney days, takes off before the going really gets rough, while Rachel Korine (yes, Harmony cast his own 26-year-old wife in this picture!) is up for a solo, nude, post-gunshot shower scene before she takes the bus back to the sticks.
Benson and Hudgens, however, go all the way in a swimming-pool threesome with Franco that would be a lot steamier if the three co-stars didn’t all have “no naughty bits” clauses in their contracts. Let’s just say that if this movie proves to be a career-killer for the young girl who rose to fame as Gabrielle Montez in those teenage TV movies, she just might have a future in the adult film industry. With her sultry, come-hither expression locked on for the duration of the film, I can see why 12-year-old boys everywhere went wild over those semi-nude photos that surfaced online a few years back. Zac Efron probably cried out of his penis while watching this film. (I know I did.)
Alas, Spring Breakers is definitely not meant for teenyboppers of either gender. Judging by the outspoken reaction of the 12-year-old girl behind me who snuck into the film, it’ll probably leave them scarred for life–or at least until they head off to college. Methinks this means Korine hit his mark with this subversive soon-to-be cult classic. And I’m sure we’ll be seeing this one at 2 am on Spike TV for generations to cum.