I can’t really claim that Sofia Coppola’s latest film is a disappointment, as I’ve never cared that much for her other work. Still, I was hoping that The Bling Ring might be different. And on the surface it sort of is, since for Coppola, it’s action-packed. But when all is said and done, it’s another of her langurous meditations on the travails and ennui of the rich and privileged. It would seem to be a natural fit for her — the rich and famous being burgled by the quasi-rich and not famous. But Coppola seems almost baffled by the whole thing. In interviews, she claims that the film reflects her alarm over our celebrity-seeking society and all it entails, but the results suggest nothing more than a kind of detached bemusement. It’s not that it’s a bad movie. Certainly, its “youth runs wild” story is wittier and less obnoxious than Harmony Korine’s feverish Spring Breakers. Mostly, it’s just on the inconsequential side.
The film is based on, excuse me, inspired by real-life events that are apparently well known to people in L.A., readers of tabloids and those addicted to TMZ. (The film credits a Vanity Fair article as its main source.) It’s at least fictionalized enough to warrant name changes, though mostly follows actual events. It all starts when Rebecca (newcomer Katie Chang) befriends the shy, insecure and slightly nerdy Marc (Israel Broussard, Flipped) and the pair embark on a robbery. This soon escalates to draw in her other friends, who are interested in targeting not just random rich people, but those with some degree of celebrity. Female celebrities seem to top the list, presumably so the girls — and to some degree Marc, whose sexuality is left pretty vague, apart from his fondness for pumps — can pilfer the wardrobes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and partake in their raging tastelessness.
In fairness, Coppola’s film does these tabloid celebrities no favors. Hilton gets hit particularly hard — or rather is dumb enough to allow herself to be hit hard. It’s established that the film had access to Hilton’s home, but not whether all that we see inside is hers. If it is, this woman — with walls and walls of photos and even throw pillows festooned with her image — must be even more of a narcisstic boob than I thought. But where does that get us? A slowly paced heist movie where the overprivileged rip-off the even more overprivileged? What Coppola ultimately gives us is a kind of Lifestyles of the Rich and Vapid. Maybe that’s her point, but I still don’t get it — apart from another dose of how hard it is to be rich, or worse, famous.
The cast is fine — Emma Watson makes a terrifyingly realistic deluded brat — but only Israel Broussard’s Marc is even slightly sympathetic. The whole film is mildly amusing, but has Coppola’s trademark take-it-or-leave-it quality all over it. That apparently appeals to a lot of folks more than it does to me. Put it this way: I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t plan on revisiting it. Rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas