Friday, June 27, 2014

The Bling Ring

Directed by Sofia Coppola.
2013. Rated R, 90 minutes.
Katie Chang
Israel Broussard
Emma Watson
Taissa Farmiga
Claire Julien
Leslie Mann
Georgia Rock
Gavin Rossdale
Carlos Miranda

High school student Rebecca (Chang) comes from an affluent family, doesn't have a realistic need for anything material, nor does she have a care in the world. The problem is her hobby. She gets a thrill out of breaking into people's houses. At first, it's just people in the area who happen to leave their door open. That escalates quickly into breaking into the houses of young, rich, and famous whenever she can surmise that they won't be home. Marc (Broussard) is her spineless accomplices. He often does the research needed. Soon enough, Rebecca also recruits a few of her other friends: Nicki (Watson), Sam (Farmiga), and Chloe (Julien). Together, they hit up the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Megan Fox, among others. When their crime spree makes national headlines, the media dubs our band of outlaws "The Bling Ring." Peer pressure and bullying resulting in thievery ensues. All of it is based on a true story.

We quickly figure out that Rebecca is not just some random kleptomaniac. She is obsessed with the people she's robbing and the things they have. She is manipulative, superficial, and vapid. Unfortunately, these are all things that describe the movie as a whole. It wants to make some deep observation about our celebrity obsessed culture, but doesn't. Instead, it just shows this girl repeatedly brow beating Marc until he goes along with whatever cockamamie idea she's come up with. To help give us the feeling that something important is going on, we get a few reality-TV style confessionals from various characters. It's a technique I've long been over, especially since they add precious little to our understanding of the people on screen. Instead of giving us brief asides we can sink our teeth into, we get a disjointed group of scenes that would not alter our feeling about the movie by their exclusion.

The Bling Ring has often been compared to Spring Breakers. Both movies position themselves as dark comedies and focus on some unsavory aspects of youth culture. The problem is this movie doesn't really have much to say about it and isn't willing to go the extra mile to say it like Spring Breakers. That movie immerses us in a dream-like reality right from the beginning and uses that as an effective story-telling tool. This one gives us characters who speak in a valley-girl meets hip hop vernacular and barrels toward its inevitable conclusion. The most intriguing aspect of it, the relationship between Marc and Rebecca isn't handled sufficiently. Another potentially fascinating story line, regarding Marc's sexuality, is reduced to a couple of sight gags.

The movie attempts to use its ridiculously shallow characters to create a deep social commentary. However, it never makes us care about those people. We bop along with them on their misadventures, but aren't invested in them. As viewers, we remain apart from them. We watch them and silently, or not so silently, admonish their behavior. By the time the film ends, however, what we're supposed to take from our time with this bunch of spoiled rich kids is unclear. Since this is the case, the whole thing harmlessly floats by us and becomes less than memorable.


  1. Great review! This has been on my 'to watch' list for ages but I have to admit, it doesn't seem to have much going for it, which is probably why I still haven't seen it.
    - Allie

    1. It isn't terrible, but it is vapid and not nearly as deep as it thinks it is being. I wouldn't say avoid it all together, but you're not missing anything either.

  2. Great review! I'm sorry you didn't like it more. I thought this was leagues better than Spring Breakers. I also watched the reality show (Pretty Wild) that one of these girls had in real life, so I thought the movie did a pretty good job at capturing how ridiculous these teens were. Now I want to watch this again.

    1. It captured the silliness of these kids perfectly. It just felt like it was trying to tell me something more, but couldn't quite spit it out.

  3. Good review Dell. Any press for these kids is bad press, however, I do appreciate that Coppola tried her hardest to give any interest at all to this story. Somehow though, it just didn't fully work.

    1. Yup, that pretty much sums up how I feel about it.