I’ve had the distinct honor of being able to watch James Franco act in two movies this month: Oz the Great and Powerful and Spring Breakers. Both movies made me wish I did drugs before seeing them. For completely different reasons. And I don’t even have any preference as to the drugs. I mean, I would probably say no to meth. But that’s only because I like to make everything fresh and movie theaters are super weird about bringing bunsen burners into the theater. However they’re totally cool with charging $16 for a bottle of water. Riddle me that theaters. Riddle. Me. That.
While I got the impression that James Franco chose to do little to no acting during Oz, I still think he pulled the role off. Mostly because I think he and the wizard have everything in common. Give or take a few bylines on the Huffington Post. With that said, I didn’t really think James enjoyed doing Oz. It’s like something he signed up for a whim one night and then immediately regretted. Like buying a box of quinoa for dinner when shopping at the store and then getting home and remembering you hate quinoa and you’d much rather eat a pizza. But like, fuck it, you already bought the quinoa and you’re going to eat it. However you will not enjoy it. That’s how I think James approached Oz.
And if Oz is that metaphorical box of quinoa, then Spring Breakers is that pizza. With double-stuffed crust. James Franco loved his character so so much in that movie. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie where the lead seemed so self-satisfied with every choice he made. I could see him mentally high-fiving himself each time he recited a line. His inner monologue filming that movie must’ve been a steady stream of “nailed it!” and “good one James” and “sikk, that was so sikk!”
For those of you who’ve managed to escape the Spring Breakers madness that’s taken over this country, James Franco plays a rapper/drug dealer from Florida who’s named Alien. It’s as bizarre of a part as it sounds. His hair’s braided in cornrows, he’s wearing a grill and he’s more at home in his Florida get-up than I’ve ever seen him in his normal clothes.
And because he’s so comfortable in his role, he actually does a good job. Like I remember why people used to think of him as a good actor. There’s this one scene where he’s half-seducing, half-threatening Selena Gomez that made me forget every zany thing he’s done in the past few years (and yes, I do file hoarding ivy league college degrees as zany). He pulled off the scene beautifully. In the way that a good actor does.
Or there’s this other scene where Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson stick loaded guns in his mouth and he blows them in one of the strangest sex scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Despite its strangeness, it’s weirdly erotic. As in he actually managed to pull that scene off. Yes, part of me almost laughed aloud because WHAT!? But the other part of me — the part that wished it understood modern art — got it. Well almost got it. Over a week later, I’m still trying to process what I witnessed in that theater.
The only thing I really know right now is that its pretty magical to watch an actor enjoy his acting. Especially in a movie like Spring Breakers, where we’re not supposed to be taking the whole thing too seriously. It’s like a nice wink at the audience to let them know that we’re all in on this weird movie. And if you stop thinking so hard about it, you might just enjoy it. Especially if you managed to sneak some drugs into the theater.