The Bling Ring

7 Jul

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The Bling Ring is the latest directorial work from Sofia Coppola. The film tells the story of a group of teenagers in America who have a taste for money, designer clothes and partying. Their obsession with fame and celebrity leads them to burglarising the homes of the rich and famous, getting greedier and more daring as time goes on.

A massive part of the intrigue in this story is the fact that it’s based on true events. The movie itself is actually based on a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales called The Suspects Wore Louboutins. Another key part of my interest here was Emma Watson, and not just because of my little crush on her. I’ve enjoyed seeing her post teen-witch development, establishing herself in movies such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Her performance here is one of the more interesting elements of the movie, but more on that later.

The film opens by showing us one of the robberies as filmed from a CCTV camera, before then breaking into the story. We meet Marc (Israel Broussard), who is going through the awful experience of being the new kid at his new school. He is quickly befriended by Rebecca (Katie Chang) and, having spent a little bit of time together, they start committing criminal acts. This starts as Rebecca opening unlocked car doors and taking valuables from inside, but they very quickly progress to doing the same to unlocked houses.

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Obviously, the natural progression is to find out where Paris Hilton lives and find out when she’s away from home, and then enter her house. Initially, I found the scenes in which the pair enter the house quite interesting and amusing. However, this happens over and over again in the movie with very little done to keep it fresh. The pair are soon joined by a group of friends for later visits. They are Nicki (Emma Watson), Chloe (Claire Julien) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga). Before too long, the burglary scenes have just become a group of shrill teenagers in big houses shouting, ‘Oh my GOD’, and “This is SO cool”. This is where the film began to lose me a little bit. I can’t decide whether Coppola’s intention was to make the female characters as irritating as possible, but that is what they are.

The dialogue leaves quite a lot to be desired. Nicki repeatedly describes things as ‘chill’ which, in context, I believe to be another word for ‘cool’. It’s incredibly irritating. However, Coppola and her cast are definitely successful in painting these characters as shallow morons. The girls each reminded me of the kind of spoiled, obnoxious idiots one might expect to see on MTV’s brain cell murdering, depression inspiring, fear-for-the-state-of-humanity nonsense ‘reality’ show My Super Sweet 16.

If I weigh it up, I guess the characters are intended to irritate. They’re celebrity infatuation entrenches them in the kind of culture I despise so much that it makes me want to cry. Coppola had to portray in this way, but a decision to irritate the audience seems an odd one to me. There are plenty of movie characters that an audience hates; that is essentially the intended role of a ‘baddie’. In creating a character that the viewer will dislike though, you have to make them interesting and I can’t help but feel Coppola fails here.

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The other aspect of the characterisation that disappoints, beyond the cringe-inducing discourse, is the lack of development afforded to them. For most of them, this is fine but there is one key player who feels unexplored – that’s Marc. The mental state and vulnerability that allows him to get involved felt to me like a really intriguing aspect of the story, but there’s never a real explanation as to why he is so easily lead, which is a shame.

Earlier I described Emma Watson’s performance as ‘interesting’. This is basically covered by the earlier points about irritating characters, of which Watson’s Nicki is the epitome. My assumption is that she was supposed to be annoy the audience and she does this, but it’s an odd role. She pretty much just stands around being obnoxious and wondering which clothes she looks good in (which is all of them by the way). Her acting is good, but I can’t help but worry about the audience response it will get.

To give the film credit it is, in patches, interesting and though most of this review is negative, I’d hate to give the impression that it’s a bad film. It’s not. In fact for the most part I was entertain, and is that not what a film is there for? It does a very good job of putting across the scale of the burglaries; it just fails to keep them interesting. That said, there is one that is shot differently from the rest. We look at a house from the outside in which we see Marc and Rebecca enter. Their whole burglary is shot from the same view, where we can see lights going off and on in different rooms as they are entered and then exited. It might be an odd comparison to draw, but it reminded me of Scooby Doo. You remember those scenes where Scooby and Shaggy would be chasing villains through a house or corridor and they’d be popping up all over the place? Well, that’s what it put me in mind of.

The film is unquestionably well shot from beginning to end, but it just feels a little unimaginative. I’ve really enjoyed the previous Sofia Coppola work I’ve seen so to me it was a surprise to see a film that failed to keep itself fresh as it progressed. It often feels repetitive; proving there’s only so many times watching a teenager steal from a celebrity can be truly entertaining.

I did quite like the soundtrack. Although a lot of music wasn’t to my normal tastes, it did fit the vision of the film. It complimented the image perfectly and captured the youth and vibrancy of its LA setting. It also inspired me to go home and re-listen to Kanye West’s genre-defying hip-hop masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so there’s kudos for that.

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Ultimately, The Bling Ring provides 90 minutes of hollow entertainment. It’s far from a bad film, but it ends up feeling as shallow as its protagonists. The portrayals may be true to life but they will almost certainly grate on the viewer. The film is vibrant though, at times, it seems unnecessarily arty (see slow-motion shots of Rebecca spraying perfume whilst looking in a mirror). It’s worth watching but it slots nicely into the ‘forgettable’ file, with the most interesting aspect of all for me being an against-type performance from Watson.

6/10

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3 Responses to “The Bling Ring”

  1. The Animation Commendation July 7, 2013 at 21:57 #

    Emma Watson is simply beautiful!

    • Richard Burns July 7, 2013 at 22:23 #

      She really is an incredibly attravtive girl. Good actor too.

  2. At The Back July 14, 2013 at 12:39 #

    Richard, I hated it.

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