by Adam Riske
The plot in brief: inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities' whereabouts in order to rob their homes.
This movie tackles familiar territory for writer-director Sofia Coppola about celebrity, frivolity and decadence, but the difference this time is that its protagonists are from the outside looking in. Except in their brains they are in. This is one of the brilliant parts of the movie. The little nitwits Rebecca (Katie Cheng), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien) think they are already celebrities -- the shot from the poster is in the movie, where the characters walk in slo-mo to hip hop music. They stay out late and party in the same clubs as their “peers” like Paris Hilton, they rob them with the casualness of borrowing a pen (in this case it’s designer clothes, jewelry, money and cocaine) and the group all perform at each other like they are the stars of their own reality show and their peers are all the co-stars. There is no real friendship going on here. At one point, a character even gushes that they accept every friend request they have on Facebook and they’re flattered to have their own fan page. Quantity over quality is what’s important. Brands don’t have friends.
Spring Breakers, but the two movies are about different kinds of teens behaving badly. Where Spring Breakers brilliantly depicted teenagers that wanted to be gangstas, The Bling Ring’s teens don’t care about the rush of the crime. They want the loot and the bragging rights. Both movies are similar in that their protagonists want to take EVERY shortcut to getting what they want. Both movies feature characters that only live in the moment with no consideration for their futures or the consequences involved with their actions. The Bling Ring crew are delusional sociopaths and Sofia Coppola puts us in their shoes (the director is an expert in empathizing with her characters). She doesn’t need to satirize them; playing it straight without editorializing is making fun of them enough. They look up to Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, who are partly famous for being in homemade sex tapes, going to jail and having constant drug and alcohol problems. To the characters in The Bling Ring, going to jail is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s part of the show. In fact it’s more coverage, like sweeps week. There’s a scene where the Emma Watson character talks about how surprised she was to learn that Lindsay Lohan was in a cell nearby her own while she was in jail. The Watson character gets off on that –- Lohan was a guest star on the Nicki Show. How cool is that?
There are a handful of shots in The Bling Ring’s short 90 minute runtime that are OMG great. The first is a shot of the group excitedly running down the driveway of one of their marks, in the shadows with bags in tow of stolen goods. Just like the shot in Spring Breakers in which Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson are seen watching cartoons, the shot in The Bling Ring reminds you of children trick or treating. The other one that comes to mind is an unbelievable medium shot from the hills, giving a full view into the layout of Audrina Patridge’s home as Rebecca and Marc go room to room stealing items like they’re racking up points in a video game. The movie was shot by two cinematographers originally: Harris Savides (who died during production) and Christopher Blauvelt. It’s great work.
In ranking this among Coppola’s other work, I would say it comes third after Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides. Like Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola has a perfect track record so far. In a summer of fluff, The Bling Ring feels like an oasis in the
desert. It’s able to entertain and have some meat to it, all done with
great performance and style. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year.
Note: If the movie was not inspired by a true story, I would never believe these kids could break into the homes of Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom with the ease that they do. Who leaves a key under the mat of their front entrance, has no security guards and leaves sliding glass patio doors unlocked? Apparently most people in Los Angeles.
I haven't seen too much of Emma Watson's work post-Harry Potter (I missed My Week With Marilyn and Perks of Being a Wallflower [although I was really close to blind buying it once]) but I think I am going to like Emma Watson out of the Hermione role. Her short little thing in This Is the End was great (in my opinion) and I'm glad to hear that this movie could be better and more interesting than I thought it might be, and even more pleased to hear that Watson is a standout.ReplyDelete
I just want to clarify that when I said "I was really close to blind buying it once, I was referring to Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was only like $10 (maybe less), but I went for something else instead.Delete
Perks of Being a Wallflower is good and she is good in it. My Week with Marilyn is a drag. Emma Watson doesn't factor into it too much.Delete
Cool, man, I plan on catching this tomorrow and from your review, I'm guessing I'll like it.ReplyDelete
Just to be sure, is this EVEN BETTER than After Earth?
So just getting back from this and you pretty much nailed it - it is much better than After Earth (which I still contend was not a BAD movie)!Delete
Seriously though, it is very good and like you said, it is very clear in the point it's trying to make without being heavy-handed - there are a lot of great subtle moments.
There were a LOT of teenage girls in the theatre - I may have been the oldest person in there and one of only a few guys - and I wish I knew what they were thinking. The budding curmudgeon in me believes they only took it at face value, enjoying the drug and alcohol-fueled revelry and laughing at their eventual comeuppance, but maybe kids today are even more savvy movie watchers than I was...? If any of our resident teachers want to offer some insight into the teenage psyche I'd be very interested!
Another good recommendation, Adam - thanks!
Oh, couple other things I wanted to mention:Delete
You are right that Emma Watson is great - having never seen a Harry Potter movie I don't have that Emma Watson paradigm to get over, but that was definitely the vibe I got in the theatre. For the first little while they just seemed so tickled at her not being Harry Potter Chick.
And my one beef: Taissa Farmiga was given NOTHING to do. I thought she was so great on American Horror Story and I was looking forward to seeing her more than anyone else, but she's pretty much just there. Hopefully this helps pave the way for better roles in the future.
Glad you liked the movie. Yeah, Taissa Farmiga had basically one scene to sort of have her moment. It's a good scene. Otherwise, she's sort of just there to stand around and look like Vera Farmiga which is cool. The world would be a better place if more people stood around looking like Vera Farmiga.Delete
Hmmm...I feel like a bit of an ass because I can't remember the scene you're talking about...Delete
The one where she has the gun :-)Delete
Oh shit - RIGHT - that was a good scene.Delete
I just saw this today and thought it was really well-done, but I'm also terrified of just how little these kids seemed to care about the consequences of their actions. How low our standards are these days.
Really good movie, though, and very well-acted, especially by Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Emma Watson, and Leslie Mann.
They were rich white kids in L.A.--that's why they thought they didn't have to give a damn about their actions, Trust me, if they were black teens doing the same thing, there' no way in hell a movie about them would have gotten made, and they would have been put in jail quicker.ReplyDelete