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New Release Review - The Bling Ring

A group of privileged teens burgle the homes of their celebrity idols.


Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann


Marc (Broussard), a gay teen with self-image issues, moves to a high-school for troubled students where he is befriended by the sociopathic Rebecca (Chang). After leaving a party, Rebecca demonstrates to Marc how easy it is to steal from the residents of the Hollywood Hills, who seem to leave their cars unlocked. Marc is apprehensive at first, but when Rebecca shows him how much "stuff" they can purchase with stolen money, he happily goes along with her kleptomaniac antics. When the pair discover Paris Hilton is out of town, they look up her address on the internet and break into her lavish home. This technique is employed again and again to burgle celebrity homes and soon, a group of Rebecca and Marc's friends join in their criminal antics, becoming known in the media as "The Bling Ring".
Hot on the designer heels of 'Spring Breakers' comes another tale of teen girls gone wild, this one based on true events. While Harmony Korine got across his critique of middle-class entitlement and the subversion of the American dream, Coppola struggles to, preferring to sit on an authorial fence. It's clear the director doesn't want us to empathize with her young protagonists, save for Marc, but this creates a coldness to her film which never allows us to feel truly involved. The traditional crime movie structure, (established in the Warner Brothers gangster flicks of the thirties), makes the lifestyle appear exciting and enticing before reality kicks in as the protagonist finds themselves out of depth in the third and final act. Coppola follows this template but fails to create any sense of excitement in the act of carrying out the crimes in question. This, of course, could be down to my being a thirty-something male who thinks Gucci is a bloke who plays right-back for AC Milan. A fashion obsessed teen may find themselves wrapped up in the film's events but scene after scene of a bunch of annoying valley girls touring celeb homes quickly became repetitive for this reviewer. Coppola spends far too much time on these sequences. I would estimate half the film's running time is spent on the burglaries themselves, many of which could have been covered in a montage.
One of these sequences is handled brilliantly, however, as Coppola places her camera outside the victim's home in an extreme wide shot, allowing us to observe the young burglars act out their crime, like pet gerbils negotiating a cage. Aesthetically, the film is a triumph, with Coppola seemingly influenced by the night-time neon style of Michael Mann. (A piece from Klaus Schulz' score for 'Manhunter' even finds its way into the film but only serves to remind you how much better a film Mann's is).
One feature which really bothered me was the use of a night-club which the teens frequent in order to celeb-spot. I've had personal experience of California's draconian enforcement of its Over-21 drinking law so I find it hard to believe that these girls would be allowed into such a club, and even harder to believe that celebs would wish to be associated with a venue frequented by underage drinkers.
'The Bling Ring' could have been 'Clueless' meets 'GoodFellas'. Instead it's a film ultimately as vacuous as its protagonists.
5/10


Eric Hillis