Release: Friday, June 21, 2013
The Bling Ring has everything to do with the loss of innocence in the youth today.
Haha. No, I’m not really going to stand on that soapbox, but I also have no real obligation to sit here and lie about this movie, either. The characters — all of them, and (unfortunately) especially Emma Watson — are detestable little shits in this film and this really made Sofia Coppola’s new movie a difficult one to sit through. It had to have been no longer than thirty or forty-five minutes into this thing when I had decided roughly how the shape of my pie rating system would look like paired up with my review later — that it would be decidedly less than half a pie. (You can jump to the bottom real quick to see for yourself what it ended up being, or wait until you’re finished reading. . . .)
There have been those films that I’ve enjoyed myself in because the story was good, despite the main characters or some supporting roles that I really just didn’t like; and there are those films out there where the characters would do horrific things but managed to somehow stay in good standing with the audience due to brilliant scriptwriting and various other things. Take Meet the Parents (the first installment in this series), for example. Most of the characters were somewhat annoying (or so I thought) yet their actions all added up to one amazing little movie that brought out the truth about all (or at least some) of its key players. The character of Greg Focker was one giant fall from grace which I thought really worked to make the film a believable one. I could do you one better than that, actually. How about The Silence of the Lambs? If you’re willing to say you actually really liked Hannibal Lecter as a person rather than what he meant to the movie, then we might have to have a chat.
Some other movies that come to mind that exhibit unlikable characters but whose presence didn’t greatly impact the experience might be: Hall Pass, A Scanner Darkly, The Rum Diary, Seven Pounds, Win/Win, Pulp Fiction, and probably a whole slew of others I’ve seen but aren’t remembering well right now. In fact, the entire premise behind the original Saw took two highly despicable people and called them out on it. And of course, we all know what I mean when I phrase it as “called them out;” it’s a little more serious than that sounds.
So I’m not dismissing this film simply because the characters don’t fit or are distracting from the story in some unforgivable way. They’re intensely annoying Valley Girls who clearly value material possession over healthy relationships, and that much is certain. But that’s who these real-life thieves were. I’m sure the film is relatively accurate in portraying the real-life personalities. Because I don’t spend a good deal of time consorting with impossibly shallow, materialistic individuals, I think I might not necessarily be the target audience for a film like this. Regardless. . . my review continues. . .
Coppola directs her new movie with some deftness and confidence behind the cameras. There are several very nice and unusual shots in here that help effect the attitudes held by millions of youngsters who in some way, shape or form are climbing up the ladder to popularity based on the perfumes, jewelry or make-up they’re sporting or whose name they have printed onto their garments. Indeed this is a dream movie for anyone interested in fashion and the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. The Bling Ring follows the escapades made by five high schoolers who have been relocated to something known as a “alternative high school,” for those who have behavioral issues or exhibit anti-social tendencies. Coppola finds a cast that epitomizes both.
When Marc (Israel Broussard) finds himself to be the latest newcomer during his first classes at his new high school, he quickly falls in with a crowd of fashionistas who seem to be all about finding their latest fashion statements in the most unlikely of places: the homes of well-known celebrities. Rebecca (Katie Chang) takes to Marc pretty quickly and soon he is with an “in” crowd he’s been wanting to be a part of all his life. When the two start snatching money and drugs from parked cars one night, Marc realizes he enjoys doing this as much as the others apparently do. And so they simply keep going, raiding a good number of homes belonging to the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson and Orlando Bloom. They do these places substantial damage as they revisit them again and again.
At first you might think, “How easy must it be to rob and loot in L.A.??” Then you have to think of all the V.I.P. parties Hilton et al must attend nightly. Cleverly, this bunch of alternate high schoolers figure out via articles on TMZ and associated sites exactly when their places will be empty, and then they make their moves, removing everything from designer jewelry to framed artwork, to pets. Its a thrill seeing the level of brazenness on display here, but what it also is (and more likely to be for more well-adjusted, matured viewers) is a damn sad portrait of kids losing their identities. This is, though, a place where identity and fashion seem to converge, and it’s not difficult to avoid so much as it is easy to be turned on by the psychosis that if you spend big, your friend circle thus will be big. Here’s a film that literally values the fact that bug-eyed glasses are more popular than reading spectacles; skimpy shirts and dresses are acceptable cold weather clothing; leopard print is more common than fleece. How could I have possibly gotten to where I am now without bending to the rules of fashion sensibility and design? I ask myself this while typing on a newly acquired MacBook Pro.
Identity is identity, I suppose. And I love me some Macintosh, yo. . .
Coppola certainly feels strongly about that sentiment, anyway. Her direction brings to the forefront the collective psychology of youngsters who want to feel part of the success of famous people, by way of stealing their things, that is. She focuses on the many lootings that occurred in the valley by setting up wide angles of an entire house left empty while Marc and Rebecca enter and do their thing. This is both an example of one of the great parts of this movie and of her attention on how these kids play a role in the grander scheme of things. You can look away from the house for a second and see the vast expansion of the surrounding area around Calabasas, and where they ultimately physically fit into the “bigger picture.” I actually thought this scene and the way the shot was set up to be a stroke of genius. It is such a shame to report that this was certainly the exception rather than the rule here, though. Trailers had this guy fooled.
What The Bling Ring boils down to is a rather flat story that weaves in and out of random celebrities’ homes (if they were really allowed access to these people’s homes, it was cool to see inside. . . think a glorified edition of Cribs) while offering next to no substance in the way of developing its characters. When you meet Marc and Rebecca, well. . . you’ve met Marc and Rebecca. And now you’re stuck with them for the duration of the picture. Fortunately, though, Marc is much easier to empathize with as the ultimate consequences do end up getting faced. I applaud Coppola for at least showing some realism to her artistry in making lowlives stealing from the rich look like badasses.
Look, I’m no high roller. I don’t necessarily think the real Bling Ring were “evil” for stealing from some of the wealthiest people in Los Angeles, but their portrayal in this film wasn’t exactly interesting. You couldn’t really feel for them, in any sense of the word — aside from a steadily increasing dislike for every one of them and the way they talked. I have never been as put off in a movie based on the characters alone, but I felt like I was stranded throughout this entire picture.
Recommendation: The Bling Ring is far too one-dimensional to really recommend. If it had made an attempt to characterize the people who were involved in such bold and reckless schemes, and didn’t just fall back on the girls using “selfie” shots as transitions between scenes, then we might have had a real movie here. But what we have instead is a cold and calculated examination of the nature of obsession. Not even Leslie Mann can save this one.
Running Time: 90 mins.
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Hmmm this review sort of reminds me of some to the themes that were running through Spring Breakers, “look at all my shit”
Despite having lowered expectations I am still looking forward to checking this out when it is streaming.
Nice review, Tom
Adam, I’d pretty much call this a crappy version of Spring Breakers. Take that to be as good or as bad as you might think. Personally I did like SB but that was mainly due to Franco being just, awesome. Here, no one is likable. Thanks for the kind words buddy
That really was Paris Hilton’s house they filmed in. Oh and found watching these characters for a whole movie such a chore. This is a great review!
Gah, tell me about it!! So disappointed that even Emma Watson was just. . . ick. She looked great in the trailer. but that’s where greatness ends lol thanks Mikey!
Good review Tom. Coppola’s insistence on not judging these people for who or what they were is smart and understandable, but leaves plenty of room to grow. Almost too much with the material taken into consideration.
thanks! that’s interesting how you looked at it. she really did direct this film without judgment of the characters. and you’re right, that was a pretty smart move made.
I guess I just really don’t identify with these kinds of people. They were seriously ridiculously superficial, as I imagine some people to be out in the valley. but now I’m just judging hahah. i’ll check out your review now if it’s posted.