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The Bling Ring (2013)

September 25, 2013

blingIf done correctly, any given genre of film can elicit a visceral effect from me. Horror movies make me squirm with fear, action films skyrocket my adrenaline, pornographic films prompt excitement, and lately a group of films focusing on society’s current “Infantilism” stage of our youth makes me nauseous with pessimistic fear for my future. I recently watched The Bling Ring and couldn’t help but notice my chest heaving and eyebrows in near pain from frowning at the screen so harshly. The uneasy feeling that struck me resembled the near panic attack I had upon initially watching Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture. That same stress was also felt years ago when I first watched Harmony Korine’s Kids and Catherine Hardwicke’s provocative, polychromed Thirteen.

This bout of panicked unrest stems from these films being too good at portraying the reality I often try to avoid being associated with. A reality in which teenagers and young adults roam the earth feeling entitled, despite not having the work ethic or intelligence to get what they think they deserve. These youths are often times shallow, self-centered, manipulative, and obsessed with superficial matters. Usually, these people’s submission to peer pressure and feelings of belonging trump any guilt or regret that arises from making “bad” decisions or any attempts to learn from one’s mistakes. These types of people exist in droves everywhere and unfortunately living in a large city makes interacting with them inevitable, however, I do everything in my power to keep my distance.

Based on a true story, The Bling Ring follows a group of well off, care-free teens residing in L.A. They have what they need and get even more. Their lives revolve around money, fashion, celebrity obsession, partying, and all the other excess of materialism you can think of. Most live with parents whom are often away or not involved enough to supervise their child’s whereabouts or friends. As a result, between 2008 and 2009 this group of teens decided they “wanted to rob,” leading to a string of robberies in the homes of numerous celebrities. Victims included Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Audrina Patridge, and Lindsey Lohan to name a few. Dubbed by the media as “The Bling Ring,” this group often sported the stolen property as if it were theirs while doing piles of stolen coke, riding in stolen cars, and parting hard with stolen money— all the while feeling proud, invincible and hungry for more.

Still from Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring

Sophia Coppola directs a sun-drenched physically glowing tale that depicts the deeds of the teens and how their reign ultimately crumbled. Through stylistically placed shots and clever editing, viewers follow for a year the ring, led by Rebecca Ann (Katie Chang), engaged in debauchery while also stupidly incriminating themselves through countless selfies in clubs and bars despite being underaged along with proudly sporting the stolen merchandise on them. The Bling Ring attempts to cleverly mix humor into the mix to ultimately give these kids a slap on the wrists for just being so darn silly; leading to my biggest problem with this film.

The real-life story of these teens was fascinatingly told through Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.” In it, Sales’ interviewed two key players within the ring, Nick Prugo and Alexis Neiers (Israel Broussard’s Marc and Emma Watson’s Nicki respectively). A Vanity Fair spread on top of the multitude of camera crews that covered their court sentencing and further controversy should have been enough attention for the irrational, idiotic behavior of a bunch of high school kids from a Beverly Hills alternative school. However, not only did they get their very own 15 minutes of fame, but Coppola has now immortalizes their dastardly deeds by making a big budget film in their honor with guest appearances from rocker Gavin Rosdale and real life victim Paris Hilton. Coppola sadly only perpetuated what the true Bling Ring wanted: to been seen, heard, and talked about.

bling-ring

The Bling Ring is a pretty film in the way Coppla knows how to make, however, there’s no depth to it at all. It’s about as superficial as the characters we follow. There’s no insight into who these characters are or how they rationalized their exploits considering they were all brought up on money. There’s little depth into their families or psyches. Ultimately, there’s no shaming, or praising for that matter, of their deeds. There’s no lesson or moral to the story by its end. Which leads me to wonder, what was the point of making a film out of this story anyway? What did Coppola feel she could add to this story that Sales didn’t already establish when she perfectly titled her article, “The Suspects wore Louboutin?” What could Coppola have captured that Alexis Neiers’ freak-out on Sales during her short-lived reality show “Pretty Wild  didn’t already? The answer seems to be nothing, except to capitalize on the fame of these already unnecessarily famous degenerates. That is a form of art I neither respect nor understand.

A person I watched this film with laughed uncontrollably throughout and repeatedly commented on how “awesome” the actions of the group were. And hey, that’s understandable. We’re a society taught to admire celebrity culture yet damn and demean it for its devotion to materialism. All the while, we laugh at celebrities who “stupidly” trusted their environment by leaving their keys under door mats or their doors unlocked, or we poke fun at a celebrity’s drug problem. We tend to forget to sympathize for the pain of a fellow human because they’re making ass loads of money. The Bling Ring as a film and phenomenon reminded me of the torrential degradation of human society and how much I fear having offspring because one wrong parenting mishap can create a haphazard, emotionally void child.

AVOID IT. It’s entertaining and the story is interesting, but it’s as superficial as the real life people it portrays.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Alethia permalink
    October 24, 2013 7:53 PM

    Yesssss! I fought my original feeling that The Virgin Suicides was the highlight of Sophia Coppola’s career (the low point being The Godfather III role). I loved the virgin suicide story and really felt for each character, but every movie she’s made since seems heavier on style than substance.

    • October 29, 2013 12:50 PM

      Yeah I adore The Virgin Suicides! I would say she’s lost it, but I don’t know if she ever truely had “it” or was just the result of getting lucky.

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  1. A Year of Films to See and Avoid (2013) | The Cinephiliac

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