The Bling Ring Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
“Let’s go shopping…” – Rachel Ahn.
Sofia Coppola’s monotonous critique on the frenzied lives of spoilt adolescents in Los Angeles was like a Venus flytrap; it fooled me with its glamorous façade and rather than delivering something potentially interesting, it sealed me into 90 minutes of futile parties, robberies and drug-doing. The Bling Ring could have been a fascinating case study of the exploits of a group of spoilt adolescents who, on a whim, burglarize the residences of multiple celebrities. Instead the outcome was a dull, insubstantial film that left me asking so what?
I respect Coppola as a director, her cinematography is stylized in each motion picture but unique and in The Bing Ring’s case, rudimentary. Lost in Translation was bitingly real and her spin on the Marie Antoinette tale entertained me so I had high expectations for this feverish bout of unrealism. The Bling Ring is strongly conflicted over what it wants to be and I perceived it as an overblown telefilm and even if it had been broadcast on TV, I wouldn’t have liked it. There are far too many plot holes in The Bling Ring and I’m normally not as scrupulous when it comes to movies (in television series I like to be a bit more pedantic) but Coppola asks you to forgive these and just take the film in but I can’t. There are times when two of the dislikeable ‘protagonists’ go for a joyride in a stolen vehicle and I appeared to be the only person at the screening that was curious as to how they got it started; there were no keys of course. Everyone in the Hollywood Hills, the location where the burglaries take place are all unworried about the fact that they leave their latchkeys under the doormat and many doors unlocked, Coppola urges us to pardon these faults and look at the bigger picture, which, in my opinion was stupid.
Emma Watson takes the cushy role of Nicky, a vain airhead that switches between wanting to launch her own perfume to hoping to run a country; she’s one of the more concerned members of the gang, as is Marc. We see a lot of the film from the latter’s P.O.V. as he goes from a bashful newcomer at the local school to Rebecca (Katie Chang, a newbie actress that does a sublime job), the Bling Ring’s ringleader’s henchman. He’s the stereotypical kindhearted but misguided character that you’d expect and Coppola also sends us mixed signals about his sexuality. In one voiceover he’s proclaiming his love for Rebecca then he’s relaxing in his bedroom wearing lurid pink high-heels, another thing the director jumbles.
The Bling Ring isn’t all bad; the directing is fundamental and unshowy, and Coppola uses some interesting camerawork, particularly in one scene. Rebecca and Marc are on one of their many spasmodic break-ins and the camera is perched outside the house as we watch the pair run around the house of Audrina Patridge. It’s like watching a wildlife documentary minus David Attenborough’s explanatory speech, or seeing figurines manipulated inside a dollhouse (something I noted in the TV series The Fall), whatever way you choose to look at it, it’s well done and a clever technique. There are also some outstanding performances from the tenderfeet actors and some highlights are Israel Broussard as Marc, and Taissa Farmiga as Nicky’s sister Sam.
Coppola also distances the adults from the youngsters, separating that world of parenting and homework and school from this hectic world of cocaine, thievery and designer clothing. The only real parent we see is Leslie Mann as Sam and Nicky’s mother, a hippy-dippy woman that chooses to home school her children, instead presenting them with clipboard presentations of why Angelina Jolie is a good role model, the girls replying “her hot bod” and talking about her husband. This is now pretty ironic considering Jolie’s recent campaigns. Mann is uproarious and gets quite a lot of pretty hilarious lines.
I might be missing something from The Bling Ring, a present factor that I failed to recognize, or maybe I deserve to rewatch the movie and write a review then. But the end result, as I see it, is a scatterbrained mess, a film that couldn’t decide whether it was a comedy/drama or a serious look at a serious event. Coppola’s direction and some superlative performances just about save it from being particularly bad. It’s a look at celebrity obsession but without any real point.