Selena Gomez

This film image released by A24 Films shows, from left, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens in a scene from “Spring Breakers.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” doesn’t seem to have much on its mind as the credits unfurl over a barrage of beer bongs, bare breasts and bad behavior, and on the surface, “Spring Breakers” is nothing more than an excuse to get some of the most popular Nickelodeon and Disney stars into very compromising situations on camera. However, once you start to peel back the layers of the film’s neon-drenched aesthetic, “Spring Breakers” becomes a coyly disguised film about, among other things, responsibility, living a rewarding life and the corruptive power of Britney Spears.

Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine star as a quartet of underfunded college students who, desperate for an escape to the beach, rob a restaurant to bankroll their dream spring break. A few keg stands later, they end up in handcuffs, and their unlikely savior is drug dealer/rapper/self-described gangster Alien (James Franco).

Anyone in search of a meaningful narrative arc will be disappointed by “Spring Breakers,” and the film isn’t exactly interested in telling a story. It’s a film about a lifestyle, not characters, and almost every moment in the film is dedicated to exposing the dark underbelly of the YOLO philosophy. Even as the film’s neon aesthetic and dupstep-driven momentum seem to revel in the beachside debauchery, it’s clear that Harmony Korine is interested in exploring the mind-set of the modern American youth, holding a mirror up to our ugliest behavior accusingly.

All of that sounds a bit like a 40-year-old director telling a bunch of bikini-clad teens to get off his lawn, but there’s no denying that “Spring Breakers” is an absolute blast to watch. There’s not a wasted moment in the film, and the woozy spring break plays like a half-formed memory at times, with a disorienting, arresting lilt to the rhythms of its dialogue, driven by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex’s seductive score. Korine stages several bravura sequences, especially the creatively filmed and thematically loaded robbery that kicks off the film, a bizarre montage set to a crooning Britney Spears song, and an unusually constructed but satisfyingly climactic shootout.

“Spring Breakers” is building a good bit of its appeal around its youthful cast, but Korine didn’t cast his titular characters because they were willing to tarnish their (mostly) squeaky-clean images. Selena Gomez is surprisingly effectively as Faith, the “good girl,” and Gomez’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed innocence strikes an essential contrast to the rest of the cast. Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine are both solid in their roles, but Vanessa Hudgens tears into her character with surprising fierceness, determined not to cast off her image but to shatter it into a million pieces. 

Hudgens’ performance kicks into high gear once James Franco’s character enters the picture, and his totally gonzo performance fits Korine’s style perfectly. Alien is a character who solves his problems by throwing bills at them, and Franco's essentially playing Korine’s thesis statement, a life lived with no responsibilities taken to its most natural extreme.

For a film with so much potential for inciting moral outrage, “Spring Breakers” is actually a fascinatingly purposeful film from Harmony Korine. The film is a thoroughly modern bait-and-switch, blinding the audience with a barrage of colors and bass drops, leading them to believe that the film is a gleeful celebration when it’s actually a damning condemnation.

Canadian up-and-comer Carly Rae Jepsen’s addictive pop song “Call Me Maybe” is making a stir online and may be this summer’s surprise jam. (Photo Courtesy of 604 Records)

It’s about that time of year when music critics and casual pop-lovers alike are struggling to anoint the coming summer’s Top 40 anthem. Likely candidates include Nicki Minaj’s house-inspired jam “Starships” and Usher’s slick new single “Climax.”

But one earworm of a ditty is poised to become the stealth jam of the summer: Carly Rae Jepsen’s bouncy tale of flirtation, “Call Me Maybe.” At this point, you’d be easily forgiven for not having heard the song, or even of Jepsen herself; she was the 2007 runner-up on Canada’s version of “American Idol,” and her single hasn’t yet broken the Billboard Top 40 radio charts (it’s currently floating around the 70s).

But Jepson’s irresistibly sugary tune has flourished online. As of Thursday night, “Call Me Maybe” occupied the No. 7 slot on Billboard’s digital chart, which tracks online downloads regardless of genre. The seemingly golden touch of Justin Bieber’s recommendation rocketed “Call Me Maybe” to its current level of Internet fame.

After initially tweeting his love for the song back in December (“Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol”), Jepsen signed to Bieber’s own Schoolboy Records, making her a shoo-in for the position of new teen-pop darling despite her practically ancient age of 26.

The real clincher for the pool of Bieber fans ripe for Jepsen’s picking is a homemade montage YouTube video of Bieber, girlfriend Selena Gomez (also a favorite of the tween set), former “High School Musical” star Ashley Tisdale and various members of the apparently swoon-worthy Nickelodeon boy band Big Time Rush dancing and lip-synching to the song.

The video (which has now been viewed more than 29 million times) looks like the famous bunch filmed it at a co-ed sleepover; they’re dancing in what looks like someone’s kitchen and living room, sporting fake mustaches and ultra-casual T-shirts and tank tops, making silly faces and at one point forming a conga line. In short, it’s a fascinating glimpse of superstar teens acting like the goofy kids who live down the street — catnip for tween fans who want to believe more than anything that their favorite stars are just like them.

As for the song itself: it’s the prefect teen pop crossover bound to follow in the footsteps of Gomez’s “Love You Like a Love Song” and “Boyfriend,” Bieber’s new single that shows off a slightly edgier side; whether that attempted edginess actually works is up for debate.

The song’s lyrics are a strange mixture of summer romance cliches (“Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad,” anyone?) and surprisingly apt descriptions of what it’s like to be struck with infatuation by someone so blindingly good-looking as the object of Jepsen’s affections (“It’s hard to look right at you, baby”).

For all of the song’s virtues (Jepsen’s perfectly bland, unobtrusive vocals; the fun, bouncy tempo and its simplicity), what makes “Call Me Maybe” an unforgettable song is just that — it’s unforgettable. After a few spins, you’ll be incessantly singing about ripped jeans, hot nights and trading your “soul for a wish” (whatever that means) for weeks.

I have a feeling that “Call Me Maybe” will be the pinnacle of Ms. Jepsen’s career — while she’s a serviceable singer, cute and reasonably fun to watch on-screen (the “real” music video depicts Jepsen checking out a guy through her window only to discover that he’s gay), the song itself is the true star here. Selena Gomez herself could be singing it instead of Jepsen and it would have the same effect.

But hey, we’ve just met her. There’s a chance she’ll surprise us.

Printed on Friday, April 6, 2012 as: Radio epidemic maybe?