In Vacation!, four girlfriends decide to get away from it all and rent a home for a week at some North Carolina beach, where they dance around in their underwear, go skinny-dipping, share secrets (“I have a girlfriend…who has a boyfriend”), bond over acid pills, and masturbate with the aid of domestic appliances, such as a washing machine and a blender. A conversation will start with a “Do you remember that party our sophomore year?” and end with a “You wanna make out with me?” Once in a while one of them will even say, “Oh my God, I brought wigs!” And then one will take a picture of herself with an iPhone, and yet another regrets her college years for having never smoked pot or had a threesome. It becomes difficult to tell these pussycat dolls apart as the film takes the shape of a torture porn’s pre-bloodbath setup scenes, but all we ever get is the porn.
We tend to think of the homoerotics of heterosexual relationships as a ghost hovering over male spaces (the army, frat houses, sports), and while it’s interesting to see it played out in a women’s world here, the film lacks the conceptual gravitas that could have made it a witty quasi-feminist satire. While the girls’ clique remains inaccessible to the only male character in the film, whose foolish advances they quickly brush off, it ultimately remains, for the audience, a heterosexual male fantasy of a harem filled with horny sorority girls just one Corona away from bumping pussies with each other.
More interesting, though, is the film’s mindful tapping into the erogenous zone and aesthetics that reality TV has helped us construct: the strange pleasure of eavesdropping on absurdly frivolous conversations (“I’m having these dreams that, like, David and I are back together”). Vacation! also features an awesome soundtrack and a great sequence, reminiscent of Alex Bag’s video art, in which the girls wear metallic paint, don blond wigs, and address the camera directly with nonsensical sentences such as “I got a wiggle, but I think it’s all fake, a-ha.” Yet the film’s experimental spirit gets washed out by its ultimate surrendering to more conventional, and overrated, narrative imperatives, instead of just going balls to the wall.