Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"The Bling Ring" review

When you're young, you never really think of the prolonged consequences of your actions. Neither do the kids in "The Bling Ring," who go from one celebrity's home to another, robbing these wealthy actors and models blind. Their favorite hangout spot is Paris Hilton's, but the ultimate place to rob is Lindsay Lohan's. It's all about dressing like them, looking like them, acting like them, wanting to be like them. Could robbing someone be the ultimate form of flattery? With these cast of characters, perhaps the answer is yes.

Their brush with the lime life will be short lived, but they certainly manage to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Either these kids are really stupid or they just don't care about getting caught. For roughly a year, they were having the thrill of their lives: stealing money, taking expensive clothes, going to all the best nightclubs. They will now have to pay for their crimes, but obviously there was something very glamorous about this world. At least Sofia Coppola seems to think so. "The Bling Ring" is based on a true story, inspired by real events. A bunch of kids in Los Angeles suddenly decided to start robbing Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox, etc..., robbing them blind. When they were caught and wound up getting media attention, they got exactly what they wanted. Such is the nature of modern society.

What bogs down "The Bling Ring" is the way Coppola treats her subjects. Merely watching these kids rob these celebrities isn't interesting enough. With little characterization, there is little reason to care about the consequences of their actions. And, like with "Spring Breakers," "The Bling Ring" makes its point loud and clear. Unlike "Spring Breakers," it doesn't have a memorable performance or a perverseness to it that would make any of this intriguing. "The Bling Ring" is ultimately flat. Not much energy, vapid characters, and incredibly thin story. We don't know why these kids want to rob celebrities. We can certainly draw our own conclusions, but "The Bling Ring" is very much surface area. It doesn't attempt to delve into the lives of these characters, instead it just makes general assumptions on their life styles and who these people are. Could these characters really be that empty? Perhaps. And if that's the point Coppola is trying to make, that's fine and dandy, but that doesn't benefit the film. You can have unlikable characters, but you can't center your film around completely empty, boring characters. Especially, if you have nothing interesting to say about them.

Instead "The Bling Ring" very much feels like Sofia Coppola's attempt to make fun of celebrity culture and the generation that embraces it. What grated me the most about the film was the sense that we, the audience, should feel smug and superior to these characters. I think that's a mistake. It would have been more interesting to give us a reason to care about them. They don't have to be likable, they just have to be interesting. This film is completely devoid of interesting characters.

I don't know why Coppola stopped caring about character. I appreciated that "Somewhere" was strictly a moody film. It at least had a tender story with likable characters. Her best films allowed her to indulge in her melancholic style while giving us a strong backbone of a story to get behind. That combination was what made "Virgin Suicides" and "Lost in Translation" such unique films. Since then, Coppola just seems detached from her subjects. She only gives us a basic representation of these characters, and in "The Bling Ring," we are barely given that.

The most obvious comparison to make with this film is Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers." I admired "Spring Breakers," but found it a chore to sit through. It's quite clear after watching "The Bling Ring," that Korine made the better, more involving film. I won't say that I've given up on Sofia Coppola, she's just entered her 40s and has a long way to go. But, with "The Bling Ring," she's definitely heading down an unfavorable path. C'mon, Sofia, you're better than this.

Grade: D

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