Director: Sofia Coppola
Runtime: 90 minutes
The latest from Sofia Coppola is a left turn of sorts for the auteur who is known for her atmospheric, ennui-drenched films. Given the edgy source material, there are plenty of opportunities for biting social commentary on the phenomena of 21st century celebrity idolisation, fetishism, voyeurism — none of which are not explored in satisfyingly enough depth. Fans who love Coppola for her poignantly melancholic character studies will find The Bling Ring a bit of a disappointment.
A group of celebrity-obsessed, thrill-seeking teenagers plunder the houses of Hollywood stars, including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, making off with millions of dollars worth of luxury goods. The script, written by Coppola, is based on the Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales that first christened the teenage looters ‘The Bling Ring.’ Among the group there is daredevil ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang), new kid in town Mark (Israel Broussard), fashionista Nikki (Emma Watson) and the feisty Chloe (Claire Julien).
For cynical viewers, the characters can feel quite gratingly caricatured at times; unlike the entitled protagonists of Coppola’s other films, the rich kids of The Bling Ring do not often come across as sympathetic or even touch relatable. The film demands a temporary suspension of disbelief in order to not chortle at the scene of Nikki’s arrest, starring Watson as anti-Hermione in her most determined valley girl accent (admittedly, a huge improvement from her awfully patchy American accent in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower).
Glitzy set design culminates in a dizzying orgy of sequinned clothes, glittery shoes and shiny cars as the gang whirlwinds through the homes of their idols. The look inside the Paris Hilton residence is one that is sure to stick with audiences, while cameos by Hilton and Kirsten Dunst add a nice layer of metatextuality to this fable of celebrity.
One can rely on Coppola for a top-notch soundtrack and stunning cinematography, and The Bling Ring delivers on these two counts. The pulsating soundtrack, which includes cuts from Sleigh Bells, M.I.A. and deadmau5, sets up a few amusing joyride scenes, and pumps up the characters’ larger-than-life sense of bravado.
The late Harris Savides, a frequent Coppola collaborator, captures the high living, fast moving lifestyle in a combination of found footage, shaky handheld videocam footage and elegant framed Red One camerawork. He imbues the film with a refreshing contemporary feel that ties in with the gang’s frenzied crime sprees. One of the most cinematic sequences, where our story is refreshingly able to breathe, is found in a wide establishing shot of the exterior of The Hills star Audrina Patridge‘s house. The camera slowly zooms in on Rebecca and Matt as they move from room to room uncovering new treasures, all in plain sight through the duplex’s full-length windows. The effect is disconcerting and troubling, to say the least.
In spite of its shortcomings, The Bling Ring works as a generally enjoyable, if slightly vapid, heist movie for the social media zeitgeist.
The Bling Ring premiered at Cannes Film Festival and opens on June 14th.
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