Monday, June 24, 2013

Let's Review Something: The Bling Ring

Innocence lost due to the struggling life of stardom is something that Sophia Coppola likes to explore.  Maybe it’s her background, being brought up in a household that revolved around the arts and was always smothered by fame.  In fact, ‘Somewhere’, her least well known film, is said to be an autobiography of sorts (with regards to her childhood with her father).  Yes, fame, fortune and the emptiness that comes along with it is something that Coppola has staked her career on.  From the solemn romanticism of ‘Lost in Translation’ to the flamboyant ostracism of ‘Marie Antoinette’ to the quiet understanding of ‘Somewhere’, Coppola has exploited nearly every facet of fame and the disastrous effects it has on those caught up in it.

With ‘The Bling Ring’, Coppola moves away from the more intimate aspects of fame and dissects the dangers that that very drug has, not on those who have it by on those who want it.  One could call to mind the fascination Coppola flirted with in her very first film, ‘The Virgin Suicides’.  In her debut she immortalized average girls by focusing on the neighborhood boys caught up in an obsession of sorts with their very being.  Here, Coppola takes that obsession and kicks it up a few dozen notches, using the real life story of a group of kids who took their media fueled celebrity obsessions to the extreme.

I think we’ve all seen the videos.  They circulated YouTube a few years back, and E! made it a point of following these girls and their stories, especially the outspoken Nicki Moore, and so when we see something like ‘The Bling Ring’ it is easy to assume that this is nothing more than exploitation of the very thing that motivated these young women (and young man) to engage in such reckless and offensive behavior.  You are what you eat, and glamming up celebrity in this way can be seen as adding to the problem.

Watch the trailer and keep on thinking that way if you want, but watch the movie and find something very different.

What I love about Sophia Coppola, the director, is that she has a nuanced way of etching out so much truth in the details.  You can’t help but feel the delicate manner in which she sets up her scenes, even the more fast paced and seemingly flamboyant ones.  She understands how to mold each scene so as to find something deeper below the shallow exteriors.  She’s been doing this for years.  Watch ‘Marie Antoinette’ and watch Coppola find so many shades of color in a rather straightforward storyline.  Here is no exception.  While scenes fly by with teens engaging in parties, drugs, drinking, robberies; all of which laced with this feeling of cool or ‘fun’, one can’t ignore the obvious drain of innocence and the compelling character study (personal at that) that Sophia delivers to us.

Let’s be honest.  We are obsessed, as a culture, with celebrities.  They are superior to us.  We watch them with baited breath.  We want what they wear, we eat what they eat, we fantasize about them sexually, we watch where they go, what they watch, who the listen to, who they date, where they vacation, what they feed their children, how they dress their children.  The list goes on and on and quite frankly none of us can escape it if we wanted to.  What is more disheartening is that this has trickled down into a generation of teenagers (and younger) who want nothing more than to be famous.  The Paris Hilton’s and the clutter of talentless kids from shows about being rich (much like ‘The Hills’) has bred a world full of people who feel that they don’t have to contribute anything or merit to be successful and have legions of fans, and the sad truth is that they are right.  What I found so interesting about Coppola’s ‘exposé’ so-to-speak is that she didn’t stop there.  No, she didn’t rest at merely singling out the media obsessions that provoked these kids, but she touches upon something even darker and more disturbing.

As young Marc mentions on the outset of the film, people today are drawn to the Bonnie and Clyde, the dangerous.  More than being famous and being rich, people are fascinated with those who break the laws that confine us.  As we meet young Rebecca we see a young woman not in want of anything and yet she is a compulsorily stealer.  She can’t help it.  She checks cars, she snags purses, she breaks into empty houses and eventually she allows her clear obsession with the stars to force her into trying to attain their life, if even just for a minute.  It isn’t always about the ‘things’ but about the places.  Watch the way she can’t leave Paris’s house until she gets a picture using her phone.  Watch the way she ignites with glee over sharing this moment with her friends, drinking Paris’s booze and trying on her clothes.  She takes delight in their knowledge of her actions, because she wasn’t afraid to do the dirty and because of her they are all having fun.

But notice how easy it was for her to shut it all off, which speaks to an almost darker truth.

Yes, ‘The Bling Ring’ is fun.  I smiled at the sequences and the way the film’s depictions of teen rebelliousness was framed (great cinematography by the late Harris Savides) and the use of music (Coppola is a queen at that) is inspired and adds so many layers of edgy abandon to the film.  I relished in Emma Watson’s glorious reenactment of Nicki’s ‘put on’ persona and I ogled the eye candy (both the bodies and the clothing) and yet leaving the theater I’m left with a deepened sadness for the state of our society as a whole.  For me, ‘The Bling Ring’ could be this year’s ‘The Social Network’, a film that captures the state of an era, a people, a generation.  It casts light on the current pursuit of happiness, or what the media projects that happiness to be.

While Sophia has clearly shown us that fame isn’t always what it appears, she masterfully shows us that the pursuit of that said ‘fame’ can be an even uglier, lonelier and more crippling experience altogether.

Right now, I'm firmly in the A+ territory with this one.  Maybe time will cause it to decrease for me, but right now I'm all about this!  As far as Oscar is concerned, I could see this going either way.  The reviews were not ecstatic enough for this to garner Best Picture traction (even though it deserves it) but if critics rally behind Watson I could see her as a Supporting Actress contender, and this has a decent shot at a cinematography mention.


  1. Wow! I wish I loved it that much, but I might grow to love it even more after additional viewings. Right now, it's an A- for me. Still, Coppola has yet to disappoint! :)

    1. Totally agree on that fact (that Coppola has yet to disappoint). I'm glad it's at least an A from you! This was actually far better than I was expecting it to be!