Friday, June 21, 2013

THE BLING RING: As Superficial And Empty-headed As The Girls It Depicts

Now playing in the Triangle at the Raleigh Grande, Crossroads 20 in Cary, and AMC Southpoint 17:

THE BLING RING (Dir Sofia Coppola, 2013)

With its superficial teenage girls on a crime spree premise, Sofia Coppola’s fifth film, THE BLING RING, should be paired with Harmony Korine’s SPRING BREAKERS, from earlier this year, for a double feature.

Based on the true story of a group of fame-obsessed teens who broke into the Los Angeles houses of celebrities such as Paris Hilton (who has a brief cameo), Lindsay Lohan, Audrina Patridge, and Orlando Bloom, and stole millions of dollars worth of clothing, jewellery, cash, and personal items, Coppola’s film matches Korine’s with its high levels of glitz, and may also leave audiences with the same “what the Hell does this all mean?” bafflement.

Utilizing the internet (mostly sites like TMZ), and a shy male classmate (Israel Broussard), the girls led by newcomer Katie Chang, figure out when their targets are out of town, or attending an awards show or whatever, so they can infiltrate their domains, raid belongings, and imitate the lifestyles of the rich and famous, without having to do any of the actual work their idols did to get there.

Of course, in the case of Paris Hilton, who was born into extreme privilege, you can see how they justify their wrong doings, and why they return to her house over and over. Chang: “We’ve never taken enough to notice, I mean, it’s Paris Hilton!”

Chang and Broussard are joined by Emma Watson, Claire Julien, and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story), in both their thieving conquests and their after heist partying, two aspects of the film that get really repetitive. At least Coppola lays off the quick-cut fever dreaminess of Korine’s SPRING BREAKERS in these scenes, allowing cinematographers Christopher Blauvelt and Harris Savides cameras to linger on shots and luxuriate in the surroundings a bit more.

In one of the films standout visuals, actress/model Audrina Patridge’s two level modern glass-box of a house is seen in an unbroken night-time long shot as Chang and Broussard enter and ransack her goods (it helps that so many of these stars usually leave a sliding glass down unlocked. As the camera slowly moves in, the shot absorbs more and more until the house fills the entire frame. If only the rest of the film could be as engrossing.

It’s hard to tell if Coppola, who wrote the screenplay based on the Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins” (this is the second time this week I’m linking to a Vanity Fair article), is condemning these girls, living vicariously through them, or satirizing them. A strong case could be made for the latter when considering the character of Watson’s ditzy home schooling mother (Leslie Mann), or some of the outrageously empty headed dialogue spouted by these careless criminals.

There’s also an unsettling surrealism when taking in that the scenes set in Hilton’s house were actually filmed in Hilton’s house, in all its gaudy glory (Hilton’s face is on pillows, posters, and framed magazine covers everywhere you look), because she had to approve the recreation of something that she said made her feel incredibly violated, but somehow it’s okay since she’s friends with Coppola and it’s now art, or something.

THE BLING RING is ultimately as superficial and empty headed as the people it depicts. It has nothing to say about them except to ask ‘isn’t it crazy what they did?’ There’s no statement about disgusting excess or the silliness of stardom (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's THIS IS THE END actually tackles those themes much more thoroughly), there’s just these girls going from one heist in the Hollywood Hills to another until they get caught. They say stupid stuff while they’re committing crimes; they say stupid stuff when they get arrested.

Sure, it’s crazy that this really happened, but it’s not that surprising, and it’s not worth this 90 minute examination.

More later...

No comments: