Movie Review: The Bling Ring (2013)

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.

With sexy teens, high fashion, celebrity burglary, and a based-on-a-true-story plot worthy of a Lifetime Original Movie, Sofia Coppola’s latest offering The Bling Ring has a lot going for it. It centers on a group of privileged California teens who dream of becoming a part of celebrity culture, and find that breaking into famous stars’ homes and “going shopping” brings them artificially closer to their goal. The high of committing a crime and the bonds that form between the group keep them reaching for more and more scores, until, of course, they get caught.

Told primarily from the point of view of Marc (Israel Broussard), an insecure teen who changes high schools and falls into a friendship with the glamorous (and effortlessly immoral) Becca (Katie Chang), the story moves back and forth between Vanity Fair interviews, sweaty club nights, and criminal extravaganzas. Marc is the most sympathetic of the characters, with the girls mostly reading as vapid self-absorbed jerks, but hey, it’s a satirical portrait of wealthy, pretty youth. These kids have been fed a bullshit American Dream and they learn they can succeed on their looks, their shows of material wealth, and some good old-fashioned law-breaking, all to an ultimate end of sexy drug-fueled excess and the push for their own reality show. It’s ridiculous and sad, and more so because it feels utterly realistic. Not to rag on teens, I know they get enough shit as it is, but Sofia Coppola has definitely tapped in to that reality show culture that’s erupted in the past decade, planting seeds of forced melodrama and hopes of unwarranted fame in the minds of impressionable youngsters. And encouraging lots of Facebook selfies.

The script is light and funny, and the cast is all-too-comfortable in their shallow, ludicrous roles; Emma Watson especially is hilarious as the ultra-ditzy Nicki, along with Leslie Mann as her doofy New age mom. I loved the high-glam interior sets and close camera work through various stars’ mansions. It gets a little repetitive with so many scenes of breaking and entering, but Coppola films each one a little differently and managed to keep up the visual interest even if narratively there’s something of a drag. I especially dug the silent, one-shot sequence for Miranda Kerr’s house. For Coppola the film is a bit of a break from her traditional approach, in that it’s less concerned with existential angst and more focused on the humor and over the top elements of celebrity culture today. It is definitely her funniest movie, and I was enjoying it so much that I found I could give it a pass for the off-kilter storytelling and lack of emotional depth. The Bling Ring has its faults, but it also has some (albeit fucked up) virtues. Her camera and soundtrack combine to atmospherically create a portrait of a certain kind of American youth, that while exaggerated, does hold some abominable truth.


Pair This Movie With: The breaking-and-entering with hip young people subject reminded me of The Edukators, which is more political but fun, or if you wanted more teenage girls being hilariously entitled there’s always Mean Girls.

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