The Bling Ring (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Bling Ring (2013)

Please join the Twitch stream at Can't Stop the Kittens. Andrew's writing is on hiatus, but you can join the kitty stream at night with gaming and conversation during the day.

The selfie is the most important thingAndrew LIKE BannerIn the 80 minutes or so that The Bling Ring runs not one of its characters has anything approaching an intelligent insight.  Their world is one that they've willingly manufactured out of the images of others.  The gossip magazines and websites that they read and visit every day are their bibles, and The Secret is something to practice with all the devotion of devout meditation, not a projection of strength for desperate people but bored upper-middle class folks with no aspirations in life.  Now we have a generation of kids who adore celebrities famous for being famous and are trying to make their lives in that image.

It sounds depressing, but Sofia Coppola treats their situation like an elongated eye roll, something so empty that it's impossible to think that there are really any stakes on the line.  The problem isn't unique to Millennials, but fits into the subject that Sofia has defined her career on, the empty malaise of well-to-do comfort.  Under her direction the story is well told, but runs on fumes that were already starting to sputter under the weight of her last effort Somewhere.  That film was, in no surprise, about a fairly well-off actor who was having an existential crisis of his own.

So for The Bling Ring Sofia dipped back into the well of influence that made Marie Antoinette such a weirdly anachronistic success.  It's a spiritual sequel in a way, showing that the spirit of, "Let them eat cake." didn't die off along with the rest of the French aristocracy.  She's telling the story of people who will never understand the privileged lives that they lead because their class status protects them from any real repercussions.  I still enjoyed it, but I'm starting to feel like this particular well is going to be tapped dry before long.

Monuments to our vanity have gone from stone carvings to Facebook selfies.

Monuments to our vanity have gone from stone carvings to Facebook selfies.

The Bling Ring is based on a series of burglaries that started in 2008 by a bunch of high schoolers who targeted celebrity socialites like Paris Hilton.  The film doesn't deviate much from this basis, opening well after the members of the ring have been arrested and are talking about their motivations to various television crews.  So we go back before the crimes to see a bunch of pretty high schoolers who just want to be prettier and escalate from breaking into cars to hitting the homes of celebrities who live nearby.  All the while they party endlessly, drinking and smoking a bit, never thinking for a second about anything but how they look.

This is a key point to The Bling Ring.  Coppola's production has the look of a fashion runway show gone horribly intense.  Every time we get to see the members of the ring clearly they are either shot in the cover of near-darkness taking selfies and getting drunk, or parading around town lit in extremely harsh white to the point where the film starts to look over-saturated.  They don't have any concept of themselves outside of their image, and Sofia's camera makes sure that's the only thing that is emphasized on them.

Wherever Sofia's sympathies lie, it's clearly not with these kids.  The image-obsessed saturation that filters the look also informs the dialogue.  They sit around having stilted conversations about what they admire the most about Angelina Jolie (her husband and her body), while only seeing themselves in terms of pseudo-celebrity status ("I never saw myself as an A-list looking guy."), and finding out ways to deck themselves out for future modeling careers (never mix animal prints).  I'm impressed that the film, which doesn't have many quiet moments, is packed so studiously with dialogue that avoids saying anything about any of these kids outside of their love of the material.

Partying like the people they wish they were.

Partying like the people they wish they were.

The performances ring true at this hollow level.  Emma Watson rules the roost as the wannabe model who is quickest to turn any situation to her sympathetic advantage.  Watson delivers each line with such a mannered affectation that when she's talking about how her experiences have made her grow as a spiritual human being, it's hard not to see how she could have made something of herself in politics if she wasn't so obsessed with Gucci.  The other girls, and guy, all carve out a nice space for themselves in the film but don't really dominate the screen like she does.  Israel Broussard, as Marc, comes the closest to generating sympathy because he is so worn down by having nothing to do that his sad expression comes close to moments of self-realization but always pulls away to be with his friends.

But there's not much of the film that is going to stick with me outside of the craft.  It looks great, the performances are excellent, and the soundtrack boasts a selection of bubblegum pop vocals backed by dark music.  I liked it but couldn't help but feel that this has become the sort of film that Sofia could direct in her sleep.  It's also impossible not to compare this to Harmony Korine's bikini bandit film Spring Breakers from earlier this year.  That film pulses with conflicting desires at times terrifying and others thrilling as it follows a similar group of youngsters looking for some way to fill the void.

The Bling Ring sits back, watches these kids, and is ready to move on to the next batch once it is done.  The craft is there, but the story of the bling crew isn't vital.  I love Sofia, but I hope the next movie she creates lights a fire under her, instead of sinking back into the bourgeois.

If you enjoy my writing or podcast work, please consider becoming a monthly Patron or sending a one-time contribution! Every bit helps keep Can't Stop the Movies running and moving toward making it my day job.

Tail - The Bling RingThe Bling Ring (2013)

Screenplay written and directed by Sofia Coppola.
Starring Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, and Emily Watson.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave Your Thoughts!

Trackbacks are disabled.