The Bling Ring
It was a story that garnered major headlines in 2008, when a group of entitled teenagers robbed a bunch of even more entitled celebrities' houses. It was a modern day Robin Hood story of sorts, except there weren't any poor people receiving the goods. The story seemed like something out of a movie, which is why it came as no surprise when a movie was made. But there's a problem with the end product. There are many things that "The Bling Ring" wants to be, but very few that it actually ends up being.
Is the movie supposed to be a condemnation of the idolization of the celebrity lifestyle and the worship that is bestowed upon them? Or is director/writer Sofia Coppola merely offering up the story without prejudice? This isn't the first time that she has taken a look at celebrities and how our culture views them. She seems to want to make a statement about how people idolize their favorite celebrities. But from watching the film, she seems conflicted as to whether she is in awe of them or condemning their actions.
Throughout the film, the characters mention how much they love the celebs that they are robbing. Even after getting caught, they seem more blinded by the glitz than their situation. Rebecca, the ringleader of the group, asks if the interrogation officer had talked to any of the victims, more concerned with whether they said anything about her than what possible punishment could be coming her way.
"The Bling Ring" doesn't feel like it's a complete film. Coppola didn't quite seem to know what the central point should be. She throws in random elements, changing the tone and structure of the film without warning - like actually adding in a Vanity Fair reporter interviewing two of the characters for an article. (The film is based on an article that ran in VF by Nancy Jo Sales.) Had she been able to craft a solid third act to the film, the movie would have worked much better. Instead, audiences are treated to a Frankenstein's monster version of the events that comes off as choppy and rambling, despite a brisk running time of barely 90 minutes.
The most interesting part of "The Bling Ring" is that there are few filmmakers that would have gotten away with making it in the first place. Coppola trades more on her name and reputation as an auteur to make a film that almost no other filmmaker would have been able to get into theaters. She is able to get respectable actors such as Kirsten Dunst and even real life victim Paris Hilton to make cameos in the film. Rocker Gavin Rossdale is given a larger part, proving that not all musicians should take on acting roles. In the end, Coppola ends up being outdone by a 2011 Lifetime movie of the same name that actually did a more satisfying job of fictionalizing the story.
Along for the ride is Emma Watson, again no doubt attracted by the director's name. But make no mistake, Watson ends up owning this film! She steals it from the other actors and proves that she is a bona fide movie star by taking on a role that is as different as could be from her previous characters. With an acidic, icy delivery throughout the film, Watson proves that given the chance, she could have given any of the mean girls at Hogwarts a run for their money.
The rest of the cast is rounded out with mostly newcomers, some of whom look to have bright careers ahead. As the sociopathic ringleader Rebecca, Katie Chang is given the best platform to showcase herself by being the only character that isn't paper thin. Being the only guy amongst the group, Israel Broussard's Marc should have stood out more, but he is an ambiguous, possibly gay guy who never quite takes control of the screen.
"The Bling Ring" is a superficial tale about a group of superficial friends. It barely scratches the surface of what supposedly happened in 2008, but by the end you have to wonder if Coppola even cares about that. Anyone who is still interested in the case will probably be drawn to this movie, though there probably isn't anything new to learn. It does, however, allow for a bit of fantasy porn, seeing the houses and clothing the kids are stealing from the celebrities. But bling only goes so far before it begins to fade, and "The Bling Ring" isn't likely to satisfy you for long.