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The Bling Ring – Movie Review

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The Bling Ring – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

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When photographs of rich celebrities getting into trouble are sprawled across the front pages of supermarket tabloids, one does not necessarily think about the influences these famous people have on youth. When you are sure to have plenty of teenagers looking up to politicians or world-changers, you have those who cling to the fashion-obsessed and the paparazzi-snapping. Such was the case with a group of Californian youngsters, who stole from said celebrities’ houses. As told in Sofia Coppola’s latest work, it seems like an unbelievable piece of fiction, except it is shockingly true and many of their pieces of dialogue are taken verbatim from actual interviews. With The Bling Ring, Coppola delves into a satire that pokes fun at both the robbers and their multi-million dollar victims.

Despite being criminal “masterminds”, these teenagers are not bright as reflected very well by Coppola’s screenplay. These are people who can probably name every single fashion line worn by Paris Hilton, but would struggle to know the capital of their home state. What is particularly shocking is that many of the asinine comments made by the Bling Ring are directly quoted from Nancy Jo Sale’s Vanity Fair article which inspired this film. These characters are continually and slyly mocked through the course of the story, but it never becomes a morality play. We know their actions are wrong and aside from the frequently guilty Marc, there is never an attempt to make them sympathetic.

These are superficial and vapid individuals and coming right down to it, The Bling Ring is about rich, well-privileged people robbing from other rich, well-privileged people, who happen to be world famous. At one point, Marc makes an interesting observation that he would not be well-known and made front page Los Angeles headlines if he had done a good cause. These teenagers are like Bonnie and Clyde, doing it because they know they can and excited by the eventual fame their capture brings. When they walk up to the courtrooms, they look very similar to the troubled celebrities they have stolen from. In robbing the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, they sought to be just like them.

 The celebrities are not taken off the hook, either, as Coppola portrays their lifestyle as vapid as the teenagers taking their clothes. Hilton’s house looks like a museum with her face plastered everywhere, including pillows. She is unknowingly giving Coppola comedic material to work with and were it not the hotel heiress’ actual home, it would have seemed over-the-top. Meanwhile, the other robbed houses have the feeling of a department store, especially as the Ring admires the clothes and carefully picks the right perfume to spray. At their core, they are shopaholics, minus the spending. These upper-class youth are wealthy enough that they do not need to steal from houses, but why do the likes of Hilton and Rachel Bilson need another room exclusively for shoes? Like their constant need for footwear, the thrill of stealing becomes an addiction. Though Marc becomes frequently nervous and guilty, he returns to the thrill of the robberies alongside his friends.

 Being a Sofia Coppola film, The Bling Ring showcases her love for beautiful scenery and the cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt and the late Harris Savides is quite stunning at points. The use of lighting is very creative in expressing the upper-class lifestyle of the teenagers and the celebrities they admire. One definitely wonders what the lighting set-up must have been like, when shooting in Paris Hilton’s kitschy house. One particularly spectacular shot is merely a static composition outside of Audrina Patridge’s cube-shaped house. That clever use of camera angles allows the film to not become too repetitive as the Ring robs one home after another. Meanwhile, Sarah Flack’s editing occasionally cuts between the filmed events and actual news reports to convey the teenagers’ slow rise to fame. However, the slow-motion effect does become overused after about the third time. Despite the number of quickly-cut montages, there are also scenes where we watch one of the characters put on perfume very slowly and that slightly bogs the pace of a feature film that is not that lengthy to begin with.

 The young actors are all quite strong, with Emma Watson being the particular stand-out. Much like Selena Gomez earlier this year in the similarly themed Spring Breakers, she sheds the image of a heroic wizard to play an incredibly superficial individual with no morals, whatsoever. She is the comedic highlight of The Bling Ring, hiding behind multiple facades and trying to act more innocent than she actually is. Israel Broussard also impresses as Mark, nicely showing the insecurities and the nervousness of his character. It’s a nicely subtle performance that works well in contrast to Watson’s more scene-stealing role. Of the adult actors, only Leslie Mann is given a memorable and sizable part, but her new age mother provides plenty of opportunities for comical moments. The scene where Mann and Watson’s Nicki are interviewed for a Vanity Fair article is not only the funniest scene in The Bling Ring, it nicely shows the distance between mother and vapid daughter.

 Taking a real-life case to create a satire on celebrity worship and teenage vapidity was a great idea on Sofia Coppola’s part and it more than works very well in The Bling Ring. While I would personally rank it below Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers in this year’s “Girls Gone Bad” set of films starring otherwise squeaky-clean actresses, it is another solid entry in her slowly growing resume of directorial efforts. This is an inventive film and shows Coppola’s willingness to poke fun at the Hollywood Hills lifestyle she grew up in.

Review By: Stefan Ellison

THE SCENE


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