The Bling Ring (2013) could be an easy movie to make and an easy review to write. Is it all about the degradation of society? I subscribe to the idea that people are and have always been roughly the same. We have not evolved in our brains. On one side, the adoration and copying of celebrities, this is not new. Theft of things for which the thieves have little need or deep desire is not new. Absentee parents that are either too self-involved or to distant to see their children’s problems. Put them together with access to information and celebrities with more money than sense and you’ve got yourself a Bling Ring.
Marc (Israel Broussard) has had some trouble at school, but he’s got another shot at the “drop out school.” There he quickly meets Rebecca (Katie Chang) who has curious habits when it comes to other people’s things. She takes them without batting an eye. But she becomes his closest friend. They go to the clubs, do drugs, and generally have a “good time” sometimes with Chloe (Claire Julien), another student at the school. At the club, he meets Nicki (Emma Watson) and her adopted-ish friend/sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga). They’re homeschooled by their mother Laurie (Leslie Mann) who teaches them (and her youngest daughter Emily (Georgia Rock)) according to the Law of Attraction as described in The Secret. One day, reading the celebrity blogs, Marc mentions that Paris Hilton is throwing a party in Las Vegas. Rebecca asks where Paris lives and, click, click, click, Marc tells her. Thus begins their journey through other peoples’ homes, stealing their stuff and taking selfies with their ill-gotten treasure.
The movie is not overly plot driven. For Sofia Coppola, it’s positively kinetic, but for most movies, it’s slowly paced and disjointed. At the same time, I didn’t see this as a movie “about something”. If it is, then it’s a waste from the start. This is vacuousness on an epic scale. The reflection of a reflection. One character says “I want to be a leader, someone people notice.” If Coppola thinks this is a revelation, then she should watch Badlands (1973) and sit quietly for a moment. But where Badlands is about a nut, The Bling Ring considers the normality of this nuttiness. Where it required a psychotic break to do what Kit did, you just need to be very stupid to do what the Ring did–and there’s plenty of stupid to go around.
The stupidity belongs both to the thieves and the victims who leave their doors unlocked and occasionally have security cameras. The news said they stole $3 million worth in clothes and accessories. Did they miss it or did they notice only when they saw the security tape? That doesn’t justify the theft, but it does suggest they have too much stuff. Dozens of purses, expensive shoes, jewelry, and the like clutter enormous closets, packed to the rafters with cool. I want Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Alex McQueen, what does it mean? I’ll accept that there is some value in the brand relating to a team of designers that have a particular style that is aesthetically distinguishable, but it’s pretty obvious that the Ring isn’t making aesthetic decisions.
This is why I am so ambivalent about the movie. Let’s compare The Bling Ring with Spring Breakers (2012). I didn’t come into Spring Breakers with a full understanding of their character, but The Bling Ring taps into my existing distaste with the OK, Teen Beat, People Magazine culture. I understand wanting to be famous, not having the talent to be famous authentically, and their seeing Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan as logical role models. [I mention Lohan not to disparage her acting or singing talents, but because her fame has less to do with Mean Girls (2004) than DUIs.] Coppola’s screenplay just gives us these characters doing their normal thing. There is no Whit Stillman manner or Paul Thomas Anderson incisiveness to be had. The characters make highly revealing comments, but the revelations were made in the first ten minutes of the movie. Wait, you mean their selfish!?
Not even the uniformly excellent performances could save the movie. They embodied their characters perfectly, but they were exactly what I thought they were. The best you can get out of the movie is an unadulterated kick of self-righteousness. You get to judge these young people just like they unjustifiably judge the celebrities they steal from. At least these kids idolize the celebrities.
I guess I didn’t like it.
Rated R because they drink, do a crazy amount and variety of drugs, swear, and, of course, steal things from people. Oh, and it’s a true story.