Sofia Coppola’s (“Lost in Translation,” “The Virgin Suicides”) latest cinematic outing “The Bling Ring” is a shallow movie about shallow people robbing other shallow people.
Based on the true Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales, the film revolves around a group of five high school teenagers living in Calabasas California who decide one day (out the of the blue, apparently) to rob celebrities (Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Megan Fox, to name a few) by breaking into their Beverly Hills mansions while they’re out of town. There’s the ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard), the sole male of the group. They start off by robbing a family that Marc knows, and then soon enough step up their game, robbing Paris Hilton’s house. This attracts the attention of Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien), three anxious and promiscuous gals.
These are restless wild teenagers who live life from one day to the next. They don’t seem to have any long-term goals or aspirations except to party and own nice things. Then they rob celebrities (that they admire) in order to keep fueling this hollow lifestyle. They’re spoiled, snobby, self-centered, careless and most of all annoying teenagers that make complete and utter fools of themselves. When I wasn’t hanging my head in shame and embarrassment (I’m nineteen, after all) I was laughing uncontrollably at how stupid and ridiculous they acted. I assume Coppola meant for at least some of this to be funny.
So OK, these guys are supposed to be antiheroes but even with antiheros (the good ones, that is) you can usually find something to like about them and if not they have depth to keep you involved. But these teens have neither. I could find nothing likable about any of them and hardly any depth. They’re empty shells that I grew to detest within the first twenty to twenty-five minutes. Therefore I found it difficult to care about anything else they did during the remainder of the picture.
What’s even worse is that everyone else in the movie is just as hollow. You can’t sympathize with the celebrity victims, because they’re setting terrible examples; they’re the reason why these teenagers act the way they do. On top of that they’re careless (leaving their houses unlocked, so the teens can just walk in) and initially they’re not even aware that their possessions are gone. As for the parents of these burglars they’re either non-existent or, in the case of Nicki’s mom (Leslie Mann) completely oblivious. The only characters I could get behind were the police when they finally arrest the group.
And, since every character is practically empty, the entire movie is…empty and pointless, for the most part. Coppola (who also wrote the screenplay) doesn’t have enough material to sustain the brisk 87-minute running time. After awhile it gets repetitive: the gang robs a house, then goes out and parties, then tries on clothes, robs another house, parties some more and so on, leading up to an underwhelming conclusion that you already know is going to happen.
On top of that, the themes and social commentary the picture puts forth (our celebrity obsessed culture and the artificiality of celebrities rubbing off on American youth) becomes apparent fairly quickly and for the rest of the movie we’re constantly hit over the head with them. At one point I wanted to stand up and shout “we get it already!”
I hate to bag on the movie completely; the cinematography by Harris Savides and Christopher Blauvelt is simplistic but effective. Most of the time the camera quietly tracks and observes the gang as they go about their partying and thievery, and all of the performances are spot on; accurately portraying celebrity obsessed and superficial teenagers.
Having liked Coppola’s previous filmmaking efforts I wanted to like ‘The Bling Ring.” It’s OK to make a movie about shallowness and artificiality, pertaining to youth and celebrities; it’s an interesting and relevant topic. But the characters can’t also be shallow and artificial (especially considering this movie relies mainly on characters); they need to grow and develop and give us a reason to stay invested in them. As it is right now, “The Bling Ring” doesn’t give you much to invest in.