As shallow and superficial as a TMZ investigative report, The Bling Ring brings all the bravado, banality and bitchy berating one can stomach, then whacks the audience over the head repeatedly with droning music that’s supposed to evoke menace, rap that’s supposed to show how stupid Valley Girls are when they sing-along with Kanye or M.I.A., and drug use that’s supposed to show…all the drugs teens use when they’re middle income rich and celeb wannabes. Watching kids do drugs is about as much fun as watching this film. The story is based upon real events, and like a reality show that hasn’t been scripted, the actors tumble through one jumbled-up montage of thievery after another, making the audience restless for someone to stop them or stop the film.
Evidently, kleptomania in Calabasas, California was a sickness that afflicted a half dozen teeny bopper magpies who moronically and obsessively stole designer dresses, jewelry and paintings from celebrities — namely Paris Hilton and Rachel Bilson — when the famous femmes were out of town. These bumbling, blatant bandits of branded fashion were eventually caught, after boasting of their triumphs and plastering pictures of themselves across their FaceBook walls. Security video identified many of them plainly, leading to the arrest of the teen boy, a misfit who just wanted to fit in at his new school for Dumbos. Laughably, the investigators were told that the boorish buffoons picked on Paris because they thought she was stupid, evidenced by the fact she kept a key under her door mat. Quite intentionally, the names of the actual teens (most of whom are now out of jail, on parole) are not being mentioned to avoid perpetuating them to supercilious celebredom. The actors, too, are being spared recognition, because it’s not entirely their faults (though they may want to change managers). Thank goodness decency won out over the short-lived reality show, Pretty Wild, based on the Bling Ring sisters, though it lives on with its own notorious Wikipedia listing.
The best irony the film exhibits is throwing the real Paris Hilton into a cameo appearance. Interestingly, making more of an appearance is Paris’s own house, where the halfwit heists were restaged (ostensibly to make the movie more realistic or more painful for Ms. Hilton). Otherwise, this movie drips like a leaky water faucet in the middle of the night, just enough to be annoying and keep you awake. The on-and-off talent of Sofia Coppola is mostly in the off position in this tepid tale of conceit and deceit. One scene of breaking and entering, however, is fascinatingly revealed in a long shot, angled down, looking into a house in the Hollywood Hills being burgled. It’s an effective shot: a slow push into the house as we see the kids flipping on lights and having their intrusive way, whilst we witness the crime and can do nothing about it. Very DePalmaesque, which is to say, Hitchcockesque. Directed in a manner that almost has style and sophistication, the Oscar-winning Coppola favors a voyeuristic approach for unfolding the events. Ah, but there’s the word that does her in — she’s merely showing us events most of the time, rather than delving into any dramatic narrative or psychological revelations. That there are no revelations may, indeed, be her whole point in making this film, showing the excesses of how vapid teen life can be when it’s preoccupied with drugs, celebrity, glitz and glamor. But that’s best told by an article in Vanity Fair. It’s not the stuff of a movie. Not a good one, anyway. It’s not entertaining. And it’s actually downright disturbing that these brazen brats got the celebrity they wanted by virtue of being kill-less Bonnies and Clydes.
Now that would make a far better film: The story of Bonnie and Clyde, murdering and making mayhem during the 21st century. One can imagine they’d have their own FaceBook fan page, and they’d have more followers than Justin Bieber. They’d post Instagram photos of their victims, Vine videos of their illicit sex — violating Terms of Services across the pantheon of social media, but raking in robust advertising dollars for doing it. What a conundrum! Now that’s the story Sofia Coppola should’ve told. The Bling Ring? It ain’t no thang.
Smart-alecky and shameless, the teen girls are all, in their own unique way, reprehensible. There’s a slight pitch of satire running through the oblivious parents, but their characterizations are obvious tropisms shot across the bow of the USS Parenthood. The scenes with the parents sink slowly, in the most shallow of waters. The Bling Ring makes the case that the parents should’ve been disciplined, too. Severely. The stinging indictment here is that the film paradoxically creates more hype for these hoodlums who should be the unflavor of the day. Reviewing the film happens to keep people from filling the seats at the cineplex. Word of mouth may very well kill this movie — and once and for all, the sad, sad saga of these twisted teens.
If watching impudent imbeciles steal stuff in one stupid scene after another for 90 minutes is your cup of tea, treat yourself to a spot of monkey-picked oolong instead.
Opens at select theaters in the U.S. on June 14, 2013. R, 1 hr 30 min. Stay away.
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