DIR: Sofia Coppola • WRI: Sofia Coppola, Nancy Jo Sales • PRO: Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Youree Henley • DOP: Christopher Blauvelt, Harris Savides • ED: Sarah Flack • DES: Anne Ross • Cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann
Sofia Coppola’s fifth film is an at times enjoyable if not in depth look at The Bling Ring story, based on the article ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins’ by Nancy Jo Sales. The film does not tell the audience anything particularly new about the gang, nicknamed ‘The Bling Ring’ by the media. It takes an extensive look at their activities inside the homes of their victims and their enjoyment of the stolen celebrity lifestyle. What begins as an opportunistic visit to Paris Hilton’s home quickly develops into an unbridled crime spree which sees the gang stealing luxury items, cash and art from celebrities like Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan. Revelling in their proximity to fame and their ownership of beautiful things the gang parties in various LA night clubs where they upload pictures of themselves posing with the stolen goods on social media sites. However, it is this carelessness and arrogance which leads to suspicion, police involvement and the eventual undoing of The Bling Ring, members of which include insecure Marc, ring leader and fashion obsessive Rebecca, party girl Chloe and best friends Nicki and Sam.
The acting from this cast of largely unknowns is consistent and authentic, particularly the characters of Marc and Chloe. Emma Watson is less believable as the vacant, ‘California girl’ Nicki, whose accent and gestures seem awkward and unnatural. Visually the film is glossy, exhilarating and occasionally beautiful. The scene of Rebecca and Marc running through the primarily glass home of Audrina Patridge as Hollywood lies glittering in the background is particularly note worthy and showcases the work of cinematographer Harris Savides, who sadly died during the making of the film. Coppola also cleverly utilised images from facebook, camera phones and gossip sites like TMZ. This not only highlights the recklessness and callousness of the gang but also subsequently shows how the teenagers’ lives started to mimic both the negative and positive aspects of the celebrity lifestyle they adored. Coppola is offering a critique on the culture of celebrity obsession and fast fame as she highlights how the media transformed the youths into a form of infamous star.
The problem is that the director appears torn between offering this tongue-in-cheek treatment of the teens who stole fame and getting caught up in the artistic visuals of the lifestyle. These lavish scenes of looting, luxury items and the gang’s social lives dilute Coppola’s point as they almost glamorize the youth’s exploits. For example in one scene we see Rebecca inside her ‘fashion idol’ Lindsay Lohan’s bedroom spraying Lohan’s perfume on while looking in the mirror. The segment attempts to demonstrate how Rebecca is essentially worshiping at the empty altar of celebrity but the way in which the scene is presented, almost like an advert, perfume glistening on the girl’s neck her hair blowing slowly past her shoulders, undermines Coppola’s critique. There are also far too many of these closet raiding scenes which can become tedious particularly as chunks of the script consist of “Wow” and “Oh my God”. Furthermore, the film lacks any real exploration or understanding of these characters’ motivations, personalities and backgrounds, expect perhaps for Marc and at times Nicki. This leaves the audience feeling disengaged with the gang and their story and occasionally a little bored.
Ultimately, the film offers a highly stylised treatment of The Bling Ring story which will appeal to Coppola’s fans. It boasts some decent performances, beautiful scenes and a partially successful critique on celebrity culture and the ways in which the media endorses and creates fast, empty fame. However, the filmmaker’s preoccupation with endless scenes of wealth and theft and their glamorisation undermines the central critique. This, coupled with a lack of character exploration leads to a film which lacks substance and depth. As a result The Bling Ring fails to engage the viewer and instead leaves you with the impression that you have watched an exceptionally beautiful, sophisticated reality show.
15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Bling Ring is released on 5th July 2013