KATIE CHANG ISRAEL BROUSSARD EMMA WATSON LESLIE MANN CLAIRE JULIEN GAVIN ROSSDALE
THE BLING RING
Academy Award nominated writer/director Sofia Coppola once again focuses on her favorite cinematic subject – spoiled rich teenagers. Coppola has never and will never make films for masses; she tells the stories she is interested in, and The Bling Ring is no different. My problem with Coppola’s films is that she presents these semi-interesting characters in all too familiar worlds, but she is always so focused on trees that the audience never gets to see the forest. However, if you are familiar with her films, you already know this and expect this from her style. If you haven’t seen her work then you will likely be scratching your head, wondering what the point is.
Spoiled doesn’t come close to describing a group of high school friends in Los Angeles who, in 2008, decided that breaking into their favorite celebrities' homes was the cool thing to do. They did it for a long time before getting caught, too. They stole over three million dollars worth of clothes, jewelry and money. Katie (Chang) had already been in trouble before with illegal substances, and as the ring leader she decided which houses they would “shop” from. Her best friend Marc (Broussard) would look up the addresses and drive the car. Keys left under doormats (Paris Hilton), doors left unlocked (Lindsay Lohan), or just poor security systems allowed the out of control teenagers of Calabasas to make their fantasies come true.
What Coppola does quite well here is capture an accurate portrayal of Southern California’s privileged youth. Mann (This is 40) plays exactly the type of mother you are guaranteed to find in these homes: unaware and unapologetic. In one of the film’s few scenes that explores the behavioral issues behind the teenagers motivations, we see Nicki (Watson) and her mother (Mann) fighting for a journalist's attention to tell their story. The teenagers listen to music with lyrics “Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well” as they snort drugs and crash their parent's cars with no repercussions.
Coppola spends all the film's energy and time showcasing these teenagers breaking into house after house, taking things and living like rock stars. One might think the screenplay would explore the motivations as to why promising teenagers would throw their lives away--but maybe the real point is that these criminals became famous for their actions, not made examples of. It would appear by her heavy handed focus on all the stealing that Coppola is fascinated by these criminals, as she denies us the court room scene where they are sentenced or any of the parents condemning their children for what they have done.
Final Thought – Coppola focuses the entire film on the what and very little on the why.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
In The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola presents an impressive picture of the material world today, in which valuable things become meaningless as they multiply. In its largest scale in the film, Paris Hilton’s and the other stars’ closets prove the point (Paris Hilton did not realize her things were missing for weeks), and then it becomes evident again when one of the perpetrators forgets about some items she had stolen, which incriminate her. As “stuff” multiplies it is devalued and taken for granted. In parallel, a sense of self-entitlement increases. At no time do the thieves express any doubts about what they are doing, except in terms of whether they will be caught. Some degree of remorse is evident on Marc’s face as he is taken away with other criminals in a bus to prison, but the women are much more sociopathic, speaking after their convictions in platitudes about doing good works for charity.
The parents are not off the hook, because they apparently make no effort to know what their children are up to and obviously have not taught them much about morality and respecting other people and their possessions.
Nor is our society at large off the hook; as Marc says about his ambivalence toward his increased popularity on Facebook, “It’s just that America has a sick fascination with a Bonnie and Clyde kind of thing.” Well said! ‘Disconnect’ is the key word here, which applies to what we are supposed to believe in and how we actually conduct our lives; to material possessions becoming ends in themselves; and to traditional values in truth, honesty, and the Golden Rule being abandoned to feed narcissistic needs.
Casting and acting skills are very fine in this film. Katie Chang as Rebecca, the instigator and leader of the group, comes across as the cold, spoiled character she portrays; and Israel Broussard as Marc, her dupe, reflects very well the ambivalence of his character, along with a willingness to go along with a peer out of a need to be accepted, even when he has a sense that it is not right. Emma Watson as Nicki and Taissa Farmiga as Sam are convincing as girls who are none too bright and unable to have a perspective outside their own. Leslie Mann successfully portrays an empty-headed zealot who is least able as an adult to discern the contradictions inherent in what she advocates.
Bottom line: A somewhat successful attempt to reflect on our world today, when appearances and things take precedence over principles of good living. Grade: B-