Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: The Bling Ring

Calabitchin'.
Without a doubt, The Bling Ring was my personally most anticipated film of 2013, but it really shouldn't have been. It's directed by Sofia Coppola, whose cinematic creativity fails (Marie Antoinette) as often as it succeeds (Lost in Translation). Emma Watson is its star (or at least appeared to be at one point; more on that later), and I'm not particularly fond of her. And as the film's release drew near, it became alarmingly evident that this might not be a fictional retelling of the celebrity burglaries so much as an attempt at social satire, a la Spring Breakers, which we all know was some real horse shit. Despite all of this, I still looked forward to it and saw it opening night upon its June 21 wide release. But even two days later, I'm still unsure of what to make of the film.

If you followed the real-life Bling Ring in the news back in 2010 like I did, then you already know that the film focuses on a group of Calabasas teenagers that burglarized the homes of some of Hollywood's biggest stars with incredible ease and, for nearly a year, no consequence. The film primarily follows Marc (Israel Broussard), a shy and insecure teenager who befriends Rebecca (Katie Chang), his fashion-forward classmate, at Indian Hills High, an alternative school for troubled kids. Together, they rob cars and friends' homes, but they soon set their sights on more ambitious targets: stars like Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton, whose house they burgle more than once. Their only tool is the internet, which tells them the celebrity's addresses and whereabouts. Eventually their circle expands to include several of their fame-hungry friends, including Nicki (Emma Watson), a fictionalized version of reality star and Cunt of the Week Alexis Neiers.

Most of the film is a continuous loop of robbing and partying, robbing and partying, robbing and partying. It would be incredibly repetitive, but that is in fact how these kids spent their time, and much of the monotony is broken up by shots like the one in which we see Audrina Patridge's full house and watch from a distance as Rebecca and Marc snoop from room to room. Scenes like this are unforgiving portrayals of the utter invasion of privacy, painting the characters as the criminals they are.

Simultaneously basic and pressed.
But it's not as if Coppola attempts to make her "protagonists" likable or really even human. They're simply symbols of the hunger for fame and fortune. As such, nothing is really required by the actors, but their hollow performances are still intriguing. Only Watson, however, manages to add depth to lines like "Your butt looks awesome." But perhaps that's because she has an unfair advantage; a good portion of her dialog is lifted from direct quotes of Neiers' from interviews or her reality show. (If you watched Pretty Wild, you'll love how its most ridiculous scenes are re-enacted in the film; but no, that unfortunately does not include the infamous Nancy Jo phone call.)

The main point of the film, however, is that it is a satire. Just as Spring Breakers poked fun at teenage superficiality and the spring break mentality, The Bling Ring satirizes our culture's obsession with celebrities and social media (after all, the bandits get through Facebook). But the film barely makes this point, forgoing commentary on the vapid materialism in favor of faithfully telling the story as it actually happens. Because The Bling Ring can't decide if it's a satire or a biopic, it mostly comes off as a move about bored, airheaded teens misbehaving.

That said, the film has a much more sound narrative structure than Spring Breakers, and it's arguably the darker film. You leave the theater feeling guilty, because all of us are guilty of the same fascination with fame and wealth, maybe not enough to steal, but certainly to a lesser degree. Because this message doesn't quite land, only those familiar with the real Bling Ring, or interested in their story, should see the movie. Otherwise, don't give it a second thought.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

So deep!