How audiences receive Sophia Coppola’s satirical The Bling Ring, would vary largely on their tolerance level towards the idolisation of celebrity culture and the sheer vapidness of those who worship it. While the hollow falsity of the Hollywood lifestyle repels me to no end, I found Coppola’s retelling of the baffling true events that inspired The Bling Ring to be maddeningly compelling, frustratingly entertaining and quite humorous as well.
As the story goes, between 2008 and 2009, a group of insipid and narcissistic Los Angeles teens (who seemingly grew tired of their privileged, upper-middle class lifestyles), became famous after being caught sneaking into the homes of the celebrities they worshipped and stole their exorbitantly-priced clothing, jewellery and accessories.
For around 90 minutes, Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette) artfully and pointedly glides and pans her camera over the surface of this intriguing, yet unfathomably true story. Her intentions are clear. At no point does she seem remotely interested in preaching or offering any sort of analysis as to why this group chose to rob the likes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan etc. Coppola is all too aware of the superficiality that surrounds the pursuit of stardom and designer-driven lifestyles. All of the characters are supremely unlikable, yet riding shotgun in their exploits is oddly alluring and amusing. As the film and characters grow more preposterous by the second, all the audience can physically do is gasp at their audacity, and then laugh at their idiocy.
Just about every frame is infused with beautifully photographed imagery that showcases the excessive and lavish opulence of celebrities. The glamour-chasing teen’s escapades are further exacerbated by a fantastic soundtrack that, quite literally and perfectly, echoes every obsessive, entitled movement they make.
The film has been touted by some as a star vehicle for a post-Harry Potter Emma Watson and reports about her excellent about-turn performance are completely accurate. The stunning Watson has a captivating and commanding presence on screen and her comedic timing proves she has range to boot. Her future does seem bright and this role should shed any typecasting she may have faced.
All the actors play their roles to irritating perfection, with Katie Chang and Israel Broussard being the other notable standouts next to Watson. In fact, the only character that offers any sort of relatable or redeeming quality is Broussard’s Marc. He appears to be the only teen that has the sense and foresight to see through the cycle of highly fashioned cynicism they have all bought into.
Though not the masterpiece that many consider Lost in Translation to be, The Bling Ring is a dark and intoxicating snapshot into celebrity-obsession and teen culture and has surprised me as one of my favourite films of 2013.