Sunday 21 July 2013

Review: The Bling Ring

Year: 2013
Director: Sophia Coppola
Screenplay: Sophia Coppola 
Starring: Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Katie Chang

Synopsis is here:

Sophia Coppola's work is best described as films were nothing happened but something with the personage has defiantly changed. The conflict is often internal and repressed with Coppola often holding a steady distance, rarely condemning or condoning what's on screen. Consider the mistakes that her male characters make in Somewhere and Lost in Translation or how she tackled the controversial reign of Marie Antoinette. Her method often frustrates, as it goes against what many want to see. Particularly when considering the privilege of her subjects.  

The Bling Ring is winding down on the end of its theatrical run and its reception has been mostly favourable but cool (Rotten Tomatoes: 61%, IMDB: 6.4, Metacritic: 66%). It’s not hard to see why. The film is inspired by the story of the Hollywood Hill’s Burglar Bunch A.K.A The Bling Ring. A group of relatively well off white kids who decide to Google the addresses of the rich celebrities they idolise and steal from them.

Sympathy and empathy are difficult to obtain due to the distance once again Coppola sets. There’s a perverse voyeuristic quality that runs through the film as the gang set up each robbery almost dispassionately with the aim to gain more material wealth. Much of the film plays like a detached dream, revealing in the absurdity of the exploits. Scenes show the gang frittering through glossy magazines while draping themselves in stolen wares. One robbery; displayed one long, near static take, shows a vast house from the outside while two of the crew drift from room to room and pilfer indiscriminately.

I gained a large sense of frustration and helplessness at what is looks to be a sign of the times. In the world of The Bling Ring, good and bad are meaningless. We are watching vacuous; well off kids stealing from richer people who often pursue even emptier ideals. These characters say things that only highlight themselves and elevate their own narcissistic lifestyle. It's troublesome to see teens act in the way they do with the girls giving off such a false sense of empathy. But in all honestly look who they are stealing from, and the life that they themselves lead.
Coppola streams the information with running blogs of celebrity's gaining DUIs and the like. Remember that the Paris Hilton brand was originally started by a sex tape? Meanwhile; the likes of Lindsey Lohan are more known for their antics of screen than anything they've done on it these days. Not very celebrity victim deserves the treatment they get, but it’s interesting to see which celebrities the teens gravitate to the most. The lives of The Bling Ring are hinted as just as displaced and troubled as some of their victims. Coppola doesn't judge and merely highlights the links.
It’s been argued that the film lacks any real depth and is as empty as the crimes committed. Yet amusingly; I found the film’s seemingly hollow nature manages to make the film stand out even more as a generational commentary. The devil may care, near psychopathic nature of the ring’s quest for material goods, could have had them working for Enron in a parallel universe. The passivity of the whole affair is equally interesting. We never see a true outside reaction to the affair. Everything is kept inside a bubble. There’s not even a sense of reprieve when it bursts. Perhaps I’m thinking about this too profoundly, but the last moments had me thinking of the bankers that helped crash the economy, Vodaphone and their tax breaks, and of course many other powerful people who have seemingly gained through dubious means in our current financial climate.  

Coppola’s film almost accidentally delivers a microcosm of how those with certain privilege may view the world. What makes the film so engaging is her passive observation of the affair. We observe the girls rhyming along to rap music with little to suggest they understand or care about the lyrics they repeat. The slang they use to each other (cute, chill) is just as passive. The glossy sheen of the magazine is spread liberally all over there life. Leslie Mann’s limited yet funny role as the mother of two girls (one played by an exceedingly provocative Emma Waston) in the gang sums everything up with her circle prayers of a particularly wishy washy overtly liberal religion, using magazine cut outs of famous celebs to illustrate life lessons.

Before the film was released, one of the members of the crew; Alexis Neiers has considered and placed her thoughts on the matter for us all to view. She’s has also considered the film to be trashy and inaccurate. I agree that everything shown may not be the complete truth. However, I don’t believe films to be an exact truth. That said, Alexis’ stark blog post which hopes the film looks into the obsession in celebrity, and a prevailing sickness that has invaded all of us in a particular way is incredibly on point. Alexis also has a twitter following nearing 40,000. Suddenly I feel we've gone full circle and that pop culture will eat itself. I'm often wrong but I honestly think we've gone through the looking glass so hard that it’s shattered.   

Note: I've just read and found a great piece of further reading on the music of the film and white privilege I found to be worth a look.