Director: Sofia Coppola
Writers: Sofia Coppola (screenplay), Nancy Jo Sales (article)
Stars: Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann
Release date: June 14th, 2013
Running time: 90 minutes
Best part: Emma Watson.
Worst part: The confused messages.
We live in a mystifying, mean-spirited, and technologically advanced universe. Today, we can look up anything on Google, talk to people from all over the world via Skype, and post every little detail about ourselves on social networking sites. These groundbreaking opportunities may seem impressive, but privacy has now become a thing of the past. This issue has sparked numerous unending debates that tell the truth but don’t solve the problem. Overrated director Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) flimsily tackles this issue in The Bling Ring – churning out a problematic and confusing docudrama as mechanical and soulless as an iPhone (there, I said it!). Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook be damned, some things, including Coppola’s rants, just aren’t worth sharing.
This pointless, repetitive, and static dramedy (of sorts) chronicles one of Hollywood’s most baffling true stories. The Bling Ring was made up of several youngsters who stole from some of tinsel-town’s most popular citizens. This docudrama, despite changing the subjects’ names, stays true to the story’s many perplexing facts, figures, and rumours. Coppola’s technicolour fantasy starts off with a simplistic presentation of high school life. Marc (Israel Broussard) continually runs into obnoxious people during his first day of school. Quickly befriending fame-obsessed Rebecca (Katie Chang), he soon becomes a part of the zany and enviable LA party lifestyle. A sudden rush to the head prompts Mark and Rebecca to rob Paris Hilton’s house. Their diabolical and inventive scheme – to research celebrity schedules, break into their role models’ residences, and steal expensive accessories – ropes their bizarre friends Nicki (Emma Watson), Nicki’s adopted sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga), and Chloe (Claire Julien) into this twisted tale. The highs of life, and cocaine, soon spin their lives into a glittery, sexy blur. However, partying, stealing, and greediness may send egos, tensions, and material possessions flying across California. This slice-of-life/pursuit of the American Dream movie is a kinetic concoction of Spring Breakers and Pain & Gain. After the obnoxious characters are introduced, the audience is thrown into each glamorous setting whilst beholding The Bling Ring’s doomed love affair with celebrity obsession. Relevant plot-points include Nicki’s mum Laurie (Leslie Mann) schooling her daughters in life lessons spouted from self-help book The Secret, Marc and Rebecca wheeling and dealing in stolen goods, the deluded youngsters singing along to hit tunes…and that’s about it.
Homer Simpson once tested his new computer by: “Watching a Sofia Coppola movie at 20 times the speed so that it looks like a regular movie”. Funnily enough, this may be the only time I have empathised with him. Brought to life by Vanity Fair article ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins’ and the reality TV series Pretty Wild, this story is, undeniably, a powerfully newsworthy tale which attracts heated discussions. These crimes reveal a significant amount of detail about the teenage mind-frame, the ‘thrill’ of the celebrity lifestyle, and the lengths some people will go to achieve their goals. Coppola’s movies explore existential angst and humanity in a unique fashion. Her fly-on-the-wall dramas focus on flawed and fundamentally impressionable people. For some reason, the indelible and compelling aspects of these shocking crimes are lost on Coppola. Her style irksomely relies on an absence of tension, structure, development, scope, and chaos. Here, what should be an expository look into pop-culture’s ‘monkey see, monkey do’ effect hurriedly turns into a plodding and bland docudrama. Coppola obviously wanted to make an eye-opening satire that lampooned everyone in sight. Unfortunately, The Bling Ring doesn’t know what it wants to say about societal and cultural issues. The Bling Ring‘s vapid characters unashamedly act out to fit in. Meanwhile, its emphasis on the “like” and “totally” aspects of teen-speak paints a broad and ugly picture of Gen-Y. Coppola also confusingly presents certain celebrities as money-hungry, spoiled brats. According to Coppola’s distorted, first world point of view, Hilton hides her keys under the doormat, all mansions are devoid of functioning security systems, and celebrities regularly leave their doors unlocked. Coppola’s perspective is so biased and simplistic, that The Bling Ring becomes little more than a miasma of poorly written speeches and irritating stereotypes.
“I’m a firm believer in karma and I think this situation is a huge learning lesson for me…I want to lead a country one day for all I know.” (Nicki (Emma Watson), The Bling Ring).
This tiresome ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ worshipping character study is lifted by Coppola’s kinetic visual style. Like Spring Breakers, this techno-fantasy is filled with enthralling moments that provide relief from its debilitating inconsistencies. Every so often, sweaty montages and cheap collages/cutaways break up the dull banter. The pulsating clubbing sequences shove an aura of liveliness into this uninteresting narrative. However, these gorgeous actors and settings eventually become tiresome. Coppola’s refreshing eye for voyeuristic cinematography, thankfully, stands above her movie’s story-telling faults. Christopher Blauvelt and the late Harris Savides’ camerawork gives each robbery a unique and aesthetically pleasing identity. The robbery of Hills personality Audrina Patridge’s home is encapsulated in a breath-taking wide shot (seriously, why do celebrity homes have so many windows?!), while the robbery of Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr’s mansion is a concoction of security camera-like angles and luminescent night vision. However, none of Coppola’s aesthetic choices come together to form a cohesive vision. Throughout the movie’s 90 minute (though still interminable) run-time, I kept thinking to myself: “Why should I care?”. It doesn’t help that The Bling Ring‘s assortment of brash, irritating characters support Coppola’s insultingly shallow view of femininity. Marc, the only character with guile, charm, and a conscience, is undermined by his shrill BFFs. His submissive, fly-on-the-wall persona pushes him out of every frame. In comes Watson’s vacuous and bizarre character (“I wanna lead a country one day for all I know”). Watson is spot on as the misguided airhead – defining her immense range and charisma.
Despite the catchy hip-hop soundtrack and Watson’s stellar performance, The Bling Ring is overshadowed by two dimensional characters and Coppola’s frustrating direction. Like this year’s Great Gatsby adaptation, it contains an alluring story but lacks a competent writer/director to successfully bring it to life. I can only imagine what The Bling Ring would have been like if Steven Soderbergh was in charge. I’m just going to say it – Soderbergh’s Magic Mike is a far better slice-of-life drama!