You wouldn’t necessarily think so, but the latest works by young auteurs Sofia Coppola and Harmony Korine are surprisingly similar. After Korine made one of the most talked about indies in recent memory with "Spring Breakers" earlier this year, a film that examines youth at its heights of rebellion and irresponsibility, Coppola now counters with her own take on reckless teenagers with "The Bling Ring" (opening in limited release this weekend before expanding to theaters nationwide on June 21st).
Though more highbrow than "Spring Breakers," the film still has many parallels as both in their own ways examine materialism run amuck. Based on a Vanity Fair story that reports on a group of teens who broke into their pop culture heroes’ houses and rob them blind (the media dubbed them the "Bling Ring"), Coppola looks at their motivations and the rush the girls and one guy get from toying with danger (sound familiar?).
Here, I break down the major themes of the two films to decide which stands out the most.
'Spring Breakers': Never pleased until he goes all shock and awe on the audience, Korine is in his glory mixing scantily clad babes with his arty esthetic. Interludes of songs from Britney Spears and Malick-like voiceovers give Korine the creativity he yearns for while using Disney stars and James Franco to appease the masses (and his financiers).
'The Bling Ring': Though also known for her ingenuity, Coppola’s latest is perhaps her most structured story so far. The drawn out takes from "Somewhere" are replaced with a super slick 90 minute storytelling that focuses on her usual interests: youngsters and their material excesses.
Advantage: "Spring Breakers." Both directors are amazing but the guy known best for writing "Kids" and turning Diego Luna into a Michael Jackson impersonator really raises his profile without disbanding from his unconventional style.
GIRLS GONE WILD
'Spring Breakers': Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson aren’t shy in going all out for their roles that include lots of partying, gunplay and having a threesome in the pool with a drug dealer.
'The Bling Ring': Emma Watson (doing a great Valley Girl voice) and newcomers Katie Chang, Claire Julien and Taissa Farmiga (daughter of Vera) aren’t as raunchy (the closest thing to titillating behavior is when Watson playfully swings around on a stripper pole in Paris Hilton’s house…yes, you read that correctly) however their bad girl antics are similar to Gomez and company, including characters from both films playfully pointing loaded guns at their male counterparts.
Advantage: "Spring Breakers." Though the gang in "The Bling Ring" are nuts, they are hardly as out of control as the gals enjoying spring break.
THE MALE LEAD
'Spring Breakers': James Franco gives "chewing scenery" a whole new definition in this over-the-top rendition of a dirty south wanna-be drug kingpin named Alien. From his smooth talk with the girls to his massive collection of guns, he looks like he’s on top of the world…until the final scene.
'The Bling Ring': In his breakout role, Israel Broussard plays the new kid at school who just wants to be accepted and gets caught up with the wrong crowd. His love for pink pumps and all things Louis Vuitton—as well as acceptance with the cool girls—leads to his downfall.
Advantage: "Spring Breakers." Perhaps unfair to compare a vet with a rookie, Franco’s performance elevates his film while Broussard is flat and at times painful to watch.
'Spring Breakers': Skrillex is thrust upon us as quickly as topless women and his beats only heighten the crazy happenings shown as we follow the girls deeper into their excursion.
'The Bling Ring': In celebrating the insatiable appetite of the finer things in life by the Bling Ring gang, Coppola decides to plaster the movie with tracks from one of the flossiest rappers around: Kanye West.
Advantage: "The Bling Ring." Coppola is no stranger to choosing the perfect music for her films and she’s outdone herself with this one. The selection of West throughout just adds to the posh lifestyle we’re engrossed in.
'Spring Breakers': The sun-drenched locale of St. Petersburg, FL (though they also shot in other areas of Florida as well) makes for a gorgeous setting for the debauchery that goes on in the film and shows that bad things can happen in beautiful places.
'The Bling Ring': L.A. isn’t just home to the stars but we soon learn that in the lavish Hollywood Hills they are a trusting bunch as well as $100,000 cars are parked on the street unlocked as well as their mansions.
Advantage: "The Bling Ring." And just by a slim margin. The deciding factor is the eye-popping hilarity that is Paris Hilton’s house (which Coppola really shot in for the film) that edges out Alien’s "look at my shiiit" mansion just for its sheer level of egotistical existence (don’t want to give it away, you’ll have to see the movie).
'Spring Breakers': Known best for his visionary work with Gaspar Noé on films like "Irreversible" and "Enter the Void," DP Benoît Debie brings Korine’s twisted journey to life with bright neon colors that makes you feel you’re watching an episode from "Miami Vice."
'The Bling Ring': One of the final films he shot before his untimely death, Harris Savides introduces Coppola to her first movie done on digital with beautifully subtle camerawork that is a moving coda to his career.
Advantage: "The Bling Ring." Nuff said.
THE BOX OFFICE
'Spring Breakers': Grossing over $14 million in domestic sales to date makes it miles away the highest earner for a Korine film.
'The Bling Ring': Up against "Man of Steel" in its limited run and "World War Z" when it goes wider, don’t expect a huge opening. Odds are that "The Bling Ring" will ultimately gross somewhere between the $11 million that Coppola raked in with "Somewhere," and the $119 million that was earned by her Oscar-nominated hit "Lost in Translation."
Advantage: "Spring Breakers." Going into the DVD/Streaming/VOD market shortly, there’s no telling how much this movie will make.
THE CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY
'Spring Breakers': Parents, when your kid asks you if it’s okay to go to spring break with their friends, just say no! (or strap a LoJack on them)
'The Bling Ring': Parents, spend a bit more time with your kids, if they’re rockin’ a Michael Kors bag and wearing clothing that costs more that your whole wardrobe, it’s probably time for a talk
AND THE WINNER IS...
By an extremely slim margin I have to hand the prize to "Spring Breakers." But, if summer blockbusters aren’t your thing we highly recommend "The Bling Ring" this weekend. Or wait for "Breakers" to hit Streaming/DVD (by beginning of July) and have a luxurious afternoon with some spoiled kids in the theater and then break out the 40s and blunts for a grimy evening back home. Now that's a double feature!