Title: The Bling Ring
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
Director(s): Sofia Coppola
Release Year: 2013
The Bling Ring could quite easily exist in a time capsule to represent the past decade, alongside Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. The attack on obsession over celebrity culture is meticulously put at the forefront of Sofia Coppola’s latest directorial effort. The problems that surface from The Bling Ring can be attributed directly with the positioning of the message, because it plays out more like a piece of propaganda than anything else. When it works, it works really well, but Coppola doesn’t exercise restraint, which unfortunately results in an unearned 90-minute runtime and a film that is hard to watch without wanting to hit fast-forward.
There were a lot of places for The Bling Ring to go in terms of narrative, but it decided to keep close to the original Vanity Fair article, in which a group of kids steal from the different homes of celebrities. These teenagers aren’t stealing for the thrill of stealing, or even for the profit they could make from the thefts. The real reason they steal is because they want to live that same lifestyle as the celebrities they take from, and thieving from them is one way in which they feel they can attain that goal. It becomes more interesting when the film attempts to explain just why these kids take the paths in life that they do. Nicki (Emma Watson) has been raised into the celebrity lifestyle because of her parents, and has the attitude to back it up. Beyond that, most of the other characters’ backgrounds are barely present because The Bling Ring seems to have already decided on what its point will be and proceeds to hammer it in for the duration of the film, refusing to extrapolate and create characters with real depth.
This redundancy became evident after the third time I watched this group of teenagers ransack Paris Hilton’s house. While the editing in the film is well done, as well as the cinematography, there’s a real lack of restraint in how much of one thing needs to be shown. The point of watching everything happen in real-time was not lost on me the first time the group stole from a celebrity’s house, and I can understand having to show it a second time so more people can grasp the ideas behind it, but three times is too many. And that’s only Paris Hilton’s house. The teenagers steal from several houses and while sometimes they steal different things, it all equates to being things they should not have taken. It’s when the characters start stealing from the people they most admire instead of just random celebrities, that the plot finally begins to move forward.
The heavy-handed nature of The Bling Ring is the thing that turned me off of the film, but there’s a lot to admire as well. As I mentioned, the editing and cinematography are well done, and the soundtrack has the same effect that Spring Breakers did in its use of highly-produced rap and pop songs. The dissonance that’s caused by the combination of the music and cinematography furthers the message that Coppola was trying to present in the writing of the film. Of course, the main draw of The Bling Ring is Emma Watson and for the first time in her career, I felt the spark of an actress worth paying attention to. The rest of the teenagers all hold their own and the main character, Marc (Israel Broussard), is able to carve out a good performance all things considering. It’s almost a shame that The Bling Ring‘s style and cast was not able to save the film for me.
How much entertainment matters in a film like The Bling Ring is a question that could be debated forever, but I’m not going to say that the film didn’t have its moments. It really does and it seems the purpose is that you shouldn’t be entertained by all of what is happening on screen. However, when it comes down to it, the redeeming factors of this film come less from how “good” it is for me, but how much it succeeds at delivering its message. I was not entertained watching The Bling Ring and I will concede that entertainment was probably the last thing on Coppola’s mind. That being said, there’s a certain level of entertainment I expect from a film and the redundancy of scenes and unlikable nature of everyone in The Bling Ring holds it back from being more than just a statement on culture.