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Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens change Disney image with violent ‘Spring Breakers’

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Updated: April 18, 2013 6:23AM

AUSTIN, Texas — James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens are about to ruin a lot of potential spring breaks.

But watching Franco’s performance in “Spring Breakers” (opening Friday) will be worth it — at least for those whose spring breaking days are in the past.

Years ago, director Harmony Korine, writer of the iconic 1995 film “Kids,” had a dream about girls in bikinis robbing tourists during spring break. That naturally born vision gestated into a film that puts former Disney Channel star Gomez firmly on a trajectory into a new adult acting career.

“I am super-blessed to be a part of the channel. I really am,” Gomez said on the red carpet at a South by Southwest Film Festival screening. “It was four years of my life that was the right thing I needed to do at that time. But I am turning 21 this year [and] there is nothing wrong with growing up. I’m super-stoked to be able to branch out and do different things.”

This is different, all right. Events start out innocently enough. The aptly named Faith (Gomez) and her friends want to go to spring break, but haven’t saved enough money. So the other three — Candy (Hudgens, another Disney alum), Brit (Ashley Benson of “Pretty Little Liars”) and Cotty (Rachel Korine, wife of Harmony) — go gangster and rob a diner with water pistols.

Flush with cash, they head for St. Petersburg for fun in the sun. Events quickly escalate to a girls-gone-wild weekend and the four are arrested.

Enter Alien (Franco), a real rapping gangster, complete with long cornrows and platinum grillz. He spots the girls, arrested and jailed in their bikinis, and sees an opportunity. After bailing them out, he tells them “I’m a ... gangster with a heart of gold.”

Without giving away what happens next, some girls find their way home, while others don’t. And, in a beef with another local gangster, some get hurt.

“Beach Blanket Bingo” this is not. “It turns into this dark, dark, dark movie,” said Benson, “and takes you on a crazy ride.”

Director Korine acknowledged that critics of violence in the media may target the film but defended his right to make a hyper-realized look at sex and violence. “It is my kind of impressionistic reinterpretation of that world and all those things as they kind of coalesce and become something else,” he said. “I would say there is merit and beauty and horror — and vice versa — and the film explores that.”

A moviegoer asked Korine during a cast discussion after the screening about the ambiguous ending, which she said reminded her of “Thelma & Louise.”

“I want you to dream on it,” Korine said. “Do you want to be told everything all the time?”

Viewer Maddison Lopez, 17, a finalist in the festival’s short film competition, questioned whether the film was a good move for Gomez and wondered about real-world repercussions for future spring breakers and their parents.

“I was worried for my mom. She’s going to think we are going to do this at spring break in college,” Lopez said. “It was a little overexaggerated. Maybe it was a satire.”

Gannett News Service

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