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The Bling Ring
★★☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring is based on the true story of a group of shallow star-worshiping teens that became celebrities themselves by breaking into the homes of the famous people they hope to emulate and stealing over three million dollars worth of clothes, jewelry and other “bling.” The story is such a ripe metaphor for all that’s wrong with contemporary American culture that it requires a film of extreme subtlety and understatement to avoid the kind of heavy-handed moralizing that would render it just as superficial as its characters. Coppola certainly walks that line with her typical observational story-telling style, but the film fails to say much of anything more about its zeitgeisty themes than a simple tabloid headline could. The movie neither celebrates nor condemns the lifestyle and choices of its characters, nor does it give us any insight into their psychology. Perhaps these kids are so vacuous and undeveloped that there is literally no insight to give, but that begs the question: why then make a film about them? Similarly, despite the fact that the story is based on facts, it is difficult to suspend disbelief at how these teens get in and out of the houses and cars of their idols without getting caught. Perhaps the security of the rich and famous in LA really is this lax, but in a narrative film, which surely takes liberties with time and other specifics, we need to be better convinced.

In her best films (Lost in Translation and Somewhere--both original screenplays), Coppola focuses on the isolation of one or two characters, exploring their inner lives through the simple act of watching them without any narrative crutches like voiceover, journal entries, non-linear structures or outside perspective. In those films, the audience experiences the emotional lives of the characters in an immediate, moment-to-moment way. Thus, even if our own lives bear no resemblance to those of the characters, by the time the film is over we understand their innermost feelings because Coppola has tapped into something universal within all of us. In The Bling Ring, like her 1999 début feature, The Virgin Suicides (both screenplays she adapted) Coppola deals with an ensemble cast and employs structural narrative conventions that comment on the group’s behavior rather than simply showing it. This keeps the audience scrutinizing the characters from a distance for the whole film, rather than unnoticeably shifting from observation to identification somewhere during the act of watching.

Things sure have changed for the teenaged girls of the LA suburbs since Adrian Lyne's Foxes in 1980--a film I thought of many times while watching The Bling Ring--but they certainly haven’t improved.    

Directed by Sofia Coppola
Produced by Sofia Coppola, Roman Coppola, and Youree Henley

Written by Sofia Coppola
Based on the Vanity Fair article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins" by Nancy Jo Sales

With: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann, Carlos Miranda, Gavin Rossdale, Stacy Edwards, G. Mac Brown, Marc Coppola, Janet Song, Annie Fitzgerald, Kirsten Dunst, and Paris Hilton

Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt and Harris Savides
Editing: Sarah Flack
Music: Daniel Lopatin and Brian Reitzell

Runtime: 90 min
Release Date: 21 June 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color