THE BLING RING
**** (out of 5)
June 21, 2013
Katie Chang as REBECCA
Israel Broussard as MARC
Emma Watson as NICKI
Claire Julien as CHLOE
Taissa Farmiga as SAM
Georgia Rock as EMILY
Leslie Mann as LAURIE
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
BY KEVIN CARR
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While there are some critics out there who adore Sofia Coppola’s work – and have adored it since she came on strong with “The Virgin Suicides.” However, I’ve never been one of those critics. I enjoyed “Lost in Translation” for its unique storytelling and perspective, but I thoroughly loathed her two most recent films (“Marie Antoinette” and “Somewhere”).
When it came time for me to see “The Bling Ring,” I was bracing myself to hate it.
But then a funny thing happened. The movie happened. And I found myself liking it more and more as I got into the movie, then liking it even more as I thought about it afterwards.
“The Bling Ring” tells the true story of a group of bored, entitled L.A. teenagers who are looking for a cheap thrill. When taking drugs, cutting class and sneaking into trendy night clubs loses its luster, they turn to a new activity: burglary. Obsessed with the celebrity culture of Los Angeles, the kids figure out which celebrities will be out of town on certain nights and break into their houses to steal their decadent junk. Of course, being stupid teenagers, they don’t cover their tracks well, and eventually the law catches up to them.
Coppola’s style is about as dry as can be, which is part of the reason I didn’t like her previous efforts. However, when applied to such absurdities of real life, things quickly become hilarious. Since she’s a child of a famous director, I’m sure there’s a certain amount of Coppola taking jabs at people she has encountered her whole life. In this sense, “The Bling Ring” isn’t as much a bizarre true crime story but rather an indictment of bad parenting that results in awful teenagers in the overly trendy L.A. culture.
It takes some time to get into the film and figure out its tone. Coppola’s hands-off approach initially looks like it’s lending a sympathetic ear to the characters in the film. However, as things get deeper and deeper, we see this is instead presenting the awfulness of these people mired in the awfulness of their lives.
“The Bling Ring” is also a shaming of vanity that somehow is endorsed by its own worst offenders. For example, when the kids break into Paris Hilton’s home, we are treated to pathetic extravagance. It looks like Hilton’s ego threw up all over her own walls, featuring multiple pictures of herself in everything from picture frames to printed pillows. I can only assume this is at least reasonably accurate because the socialite actually has a cameo in the film.
It’s sickening, really. And a train wreck of a life that has every material thing in the world but nothing of any real value.
I can’t help but wonder if the joke isn’t as much on the celebrity victims as much as it is on the criminal characters in the film. After all, with the exception of one scene set in Rachel Bilson’s home (which appeared to be a relatively modest L.A. apartment), it’s hard to develop any sympathy for the egos driving the characters’ greed.
“The Bling Ring” is a biting and sarcastic film that masquerades as a fly-on-the-wall look into true (though not bloody) crime. Some of the things said and done are simply jaw-dropping and terribly amusing to watch, though it’s not played as a straight-up comedy.
Overall, the cast works well, including headliner Emma Watson. She struggles a bit with her posh L.A. accent, but her value to the film comes out as she interacts with her on-screen family is caustic, wretched ways.
Coppola captured lightning in a bottle with this one, offering the audience a nice way to watch the stupidity of those in the celebrity worship culture without feeling the skank and grime of too much TMZ.