Review: The Bling Ring

Last weekend I finally got around to watching The Bling Ring. It’s a Sophia Coppola film with (obviously) a killer soundtrack that stars Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga. You’ve already heard about my love for Emma Watson and I’m a big American Horror Story fan. Leslie Mann also makes an appearance, which is always a treat.

The storyline also intrigued me: it’s based on the true story of a group of American teenagers living in Hollywood who tracked the whereabouts of celebrities via the web and broke into their homes while they were out of town.

[I was pleasantly surprised while researching for this post that the lines “I want to lead a country for all I know” and “What did Lindsay say?” were taken from police reports. Truth is stranger (and more frightening) than fiction. You just can’t write this stuff.]

Here‘s a pretty cool comparison of the actresses’ and the real robbers’ faces.

Probably my favourite fun fact: the “Bling Ring” bandits robbed Paris Hilton 4 times, taking designer goods, cocaine (allegedly), and cash. She didn’t notice for 2 months, and only reported being robbed after their 5th break in when they stole $2 million worth of goods.

The film fits stylistically into a certain niche/hip category of films. While I’m not sure of the exact genre, or if it has even received a name yet, it’s a cross between a music video, an ad, and a film. Driven mostly by circumstance or, in some cases, purely by visuals, other films I would group with it include Project X and Spring Breakers. Topical character development, shameless pandering to a hip yuppie teen audience and plenty of shock value are characteristic of this genre. Scenes driven by sonic and visual experiences attempt to ‘play’ with audiences and build a more sensory (less narrative) experience – with varying results.

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“Immersive Hipster”? “Mash Ups”? “Yuppie Pastiche”? Someone coin it, quick.

Coppola was criticized for upholding and celebrating the culture she tries to criticize. I didn’t find this to be the case. Unlike the aforementioned films that seemed to glorify the “social issues” of partying and spring break, I felt Coppola got across a clear point of view regarding celebrity culture, capitalism, excess and privilege.

Vulnerability, disregard for consequences, and plenty of humor call audience attention to the ridiculous lifestyles of the rich and famous and the sometimes terrifying limits (or lack thereof) of fanatics. The flashy scenes that may be read as glorifying materialism created a correlation with the ridiculous greed and carelessness of the characters who live in this environment. Rather than glorifying capitalism and celebrity, it set up a visual cause and effect.

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Although there was plenty of satire throughout the film, there were moments that I thought “I know someone like that. I know people who talk like this. I know people who would love to do this.” For me, the film was successful in its commentary because it was authentic while still getting across a critical perspective.

  Emma Watson has said in an interview with British GQ, about her character Alexis, “The character is everything that I felt strongly against – she’s superficial, materialistic, vain, amoral. She’s all of these things and I realized that I hated her. How do you play someone you hate?”

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Tongue-in-cheek, subtle humor carries the film through, with a fairly realistic look at privileged youth.

Overall, I give The Bling Ring a 7/10.

It was enjoyable but I wouldn’t feel particularly inclined to recommend it or watch it again.

 

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