Monday, December 23, 2013

Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless: Coppola's The Bling Ring, A Satire That Goes Nowhere.

Movie Review: The Bling Ring

Director: Sofia Coppola

Reviewed: 23 December 2013

jamesintexas rating-- **

The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola's new confection of a film, features the light subject of a loose affiliation of bored high school students who stumble upon the joys of sneaking into celebrity homes in the Hollywood Hills, raiding their closets, and making off with cash, guns, jewelry, and couture. The thieves cover their faces, jump security fences, and often times find the keys to the house under the mat (or that the houses are unlocked). By googling celebrity addresses and using the internet to find out who is out of town, the group becomes more and more bold, selling the stolen goods, wearing it to parties, bragging about their conquests. Rebecca (Katie Chang) seems to be the leader, drawing new student Marc (Israel Broussard) under her spell; Nicki (Emma Watson) and adopted sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga) also go along for the ride. As Coppola tips in the first five minutes, we know that the Bling Ring will get caught; so, the film becomes a study of materialism, empty lives, the intersection of celebrity and fandom, as well as a satire of parenting.

Coppola's film seems all over the place. At times, the film features characters speaking direct to interviewers, documentary style, after the arrests. At times, the film lovingly slows down to capture its main characters taking pictures of themselves, draping jewelry and sunglasses on in victoriously gaudy fashion. The choice of making no one character the lead undermines the film because I was left wondering more about Rebecca's motivations since we never get to see into her life. Marc's family is shown in brief hints. Nicki and Sam interact with Nicki's mom (Leslie Mann) who has home schooled the girls and teaches them a philosophy based on The Secret. The film gleans past the complete emptiness and low self-worth that these characters must feel. Or maybe that's part of the posing being done, the constant questioning of clothing and image that they ask one another.

Since there is no one likable in the movie, there is no one to root for as well. The home invasions themselves are light on suspense since the teens nonsensically do not wear gloves or cover their faces on the way out. There are many shots of the teens in cars, listening to music, doing drugs, and partying in clubs, imitating a lifestyle that they cravenly desire. Coppola never seems interested in coming close to saying something about these teens beyond worshipping them and simultaneously exposing their vanity. It feels strange to describe such a film as boring, but it is. It shortcuts all conflict within the group, eliminating the details of the trial to focus on the arrival and departure of the well-dressed group.

When a person's education and values lead them to the altar of celebrity worship, the fierce urgency of wanting a lifestyle, wanting a clothing line, wanting a designer watch now supplants all else. When you want a lifestyle and desire to be a brand, how does that shape your world view? I wish Sofia Coppola would have examined more than just the sugary surface of these teens and their families.

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