Review: The Bling Ring
PLOT: A group of privileged L.A teens- obsessed with fame- begin breaking into their favourite celebrities homes (Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, Audrina Patridge, Megan Fox and Lindsay Lohan), eventually stealing over $3 million worth of goods. Based on a true story.
REVIEW: Like it or not, THE BLING RING is truly a film of our time. The advent of reality TV and social media has given us a generation of celebrities that are famous for nothing. People like Kim Kardashian, and Paris Hilton become stars (however fleetingly) despite a complete lack of talent, and are able to turn themselves into brands. Is it any wonder a gang as vacuous and fame obsessed as the dopey teens of THE BLING RING would idolize them?
The kids in THE BLING RING really aren't that different from Hilton or her ilk. They move in the same circles, hang out at the same clubs, live in the same neighborhoods, etc. While the kids steal from their idols, it's not really to score cash, but rather just to somehow crawl into their skin and live their lives for an evening. People are so desperate for fame that they'll do anything. Are these kids any worse than the parents on HONEY BOO-BOO or JON & KATE PLUS 8 who exploit their own children for fame and money?
Even still, Sofia Coppola wisely doesn't ask you to sympathize too much with these privileged brats, although she demonstrates over and over again that these kids aren't only naive, but they're actually quite stupid. Most of their parents are portrayed as disinterested, but here an even worse thing is when they take an active role in parenting, with Leslie Mann- who plays the mother to two of the bling'ers (Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga)- home schooling her kids by reading them The Secret.
While based on a true story, THE BLING RING really feels like a continuation of the moneyed-youth excess movies we used to get in the eighties like LESS THAN ZERO and BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY. The sad thing is Coppola doesn't have to rely on books like those films did. Nowadays, stories that make those look tame pop up on TMZ every night, just like this one.
Coppola herself seems obsessed with the effect of fame, with all of her movies (except her debut THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) being about this in one way or another. LOST IN TRANSLATION and SOMEWHERE examined the surreal, and often tedious lives of movie stars, while MARIE-ANTOINETTE tried to do the same thing in the guise of a historical bio-pic. For me, Coppola's first two films, VIRGIN SUICIDES and LOST IN TRANSLATION are by far her best work, and it would be nice to see her try something a little different. Still, if you had to make a movie about these kids, Coppola's certainly the one to do it, and while she maybe doesn't empathize with them (who could?), she avoids judging them for the most part, electing to shoot this documentary-style.
This technique is in sharp contrast to her usual heavily stylized look. The DV photography is sharp but not designed to call too much attention to itself. The soundtrack, usually a major part of her films, is mostly confined to music that plays within the world of the film (what my old film professor used to call diegetic). Other than Watson, Leslie Mann, and a cameo by Gavin Rossdale as a sleazy nightclub owner/fence, the movie is mostly filled with unknowns. Without exception, everyone here will grate on your nerves, but I guess that's the point, and in that respect the cast is excellent. The best parts of THE BLING RING are the robberies. Coppola somehow managed to convince Paris Hilton to allow them to film in her home and it makes for a jaw-dropping example of excess and vanity, with the interior being covered in photographs of herself, with her face even being imprinted on her pillows. She even has her own nightclub room complete with a stripper pole. Another sequence depicts the robbery of Audrina Patridge's home from a distance, with us seeing the rob her through a static exterior shot, peeking in the windows paparazzi-style.
While it's far from Coppola's best work, and often infuriating if only for the pathetic depiction of the kind of fame-obsessed culture we've become, THE BLING RING is still a well crafted and entertaining film. Once again Coppola's given us a peek at a world some may think is glamorous, but is often just sad. One small comfort: when the events of THE BLING RING happened, Paris Hilton was everywhere. Now, she's a has-been. Luckily we still live in a culture where notoriety may get you a burst of success, but unless you have the talent to back it up, you can't maintain it.
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