Last year two movies came out that were about roughly the same subjects. This phenomenon is nothing new as the studios can be very competitive with their products and have spies everywhere (including on this blog…). It is odder though when two indie powerhouse directors decide to work on similar projects, take similar paths in telling the story and then release them only months apart. Of course I am talking about a movie I reviewed a couple of weeks ago and a movie that is in the title: Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring. Both of these movies are about teenage criminals who rob for fun. Both have previous innocent child actors subverting their image (Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez in Spring Breakers, Emma Watson in the Bling Ring). Both are shot in a hazy dream like state.Both are directed by indie darlings: Harmony Korine and Sofia Coppola. But most importantly both scream “Hey look at me! I sure am indie!” over and over again. But do they actually say anything about our society?
The Bling Ring is based on a true story. Basically a bunch of teenagers robbed several celebrities’ houses including someone from the Hills, Lindsay Lohan, and of course Paris Hilton. Our protagonist is Marc, a lonely gay teen who gets enrolled in reform school. A beautiful yet dangerous young girl, Rebecca, talks to him on his first day at his new school. Within moments of meeting her, Marc realizes that Rebecca is slightly crazy. She bases her aspirations on reality shows and gossip websites. She also has a slight kleptomaniac side to her. She gets a kick out of stealing things. Rebecca invites Marc into her circle of friends who all like to party, dance, and wear designer clothing. One day Rebecca learns that Paris Hilton will be in Las Vegas for a party. She decides that she wants to visit her mansion. Marc and Rebecca are able to walk in unnoticed. This changes their world. Having access to that many clothes, accessories and cash will turn them into instant celebrities. Of course they eventually do become famous, but for all the wrong reasons.
No matter how shallow her characters are, Sofia Coppola is able to show some degree of sympathy for them when they get into a tough jam. Sympathy saves this movie into divulging into clothes closet porn and shallow montages of excess. Sympathy is not what Harmony Korine had for any of his characters ever. That is why that movie felt so fake when this one had a shimmer of reality to it. I had classmates that were shades of Marc and Rebecca, whereas I knew nobody who acted as outrageous as the characters in Spring Breakers.
Despite the fact that I liked this movie more than I liked Spring Breakers, I still did not love it. In almost every scene with Emma Watson in it, I could tell she trying very hard to ACT. I could see the seams in her performance. She wasn’t the only one. Leslie Mann was just a characteriture of a type of person that I hope would never exist. Everything about her character reads as Sofia adding affectation after affectation in the screenplay. The only character that felt lived in and natural was Marc and he was the most subtle out of all the other characters. Yes he was gay, but he almost never talks about his sexuality or anything about himself. He wants so badly to be apart of the group that he will forgo them understand him in order for him to understand them.
If I had a choice between the two, I would always pick The Bling Ring over Spring Breakers. However I do not think that is that high of praise.