The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, USA, 2013)

My immediate reaction to Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring was that it was a silly and superficial film. Underneath its stylish veneer – the absence of sound during some scenes, the use of slow motion during others – the movie was nothing more than an amalgam of  party scenes, nightclub scenes, beach scenes, closet scenes, and celebrity home break-in scenes. Designer names made up a good 1/3 of the dialogue, celebrity names another 1/3, and “Marc, chill out” the final third, while the images were dominated by racks of clothes, shoes, and jewelry, garish furniture, shiny cars, and cocaine. Basically, the film pandered to today’s viewers’ attraction to the glitzy and glamorous LA lifestyle, a thought which is only further supported by the addition of Emma Watson to the otherwise little-known cast. Aside from Ms. Watson’s ability to attract a large, young audience for the film, and her ability to look gorgeous in a range of designer duds, the choice of Ms. Watson for the role of Nicki Moore, one of the principal characters in the film, seems inexplicable because of Ms. Watson’s struggle in reproducing an American accent. Now I’m not saying that I’m any better at assuming an English accent than Ms. Watson is at an American one, but I’m not the one who has been cast as an American several times now.

But in retrospect, I realize I dismissed Ms. Coppola’s film as shallow without considering that the superficiality of the Bling Ring, the real-life gang of celebrity-obsessed teens who burglarized celebrity homes for designer clothes, cash, and drugs, was exactly what Ms. Coppola sought to capture in her film. The heavy sensation of grossness I felt after watching the movie – the same feeling I get after cooping up on the couch all day watching reruns of Friends while tearing through containers of Christmas cookies, or from watching a bad rom-com on Oxygen channel on a lazy Saturday afternoon – basically, the feeling of purely hedonistic indulgence – was, perhaps, intentional: Coppola’s reminder to her youthful audience that the superficiality, the greed, the celebrity obsession demonstrated by the beautiful youths on the screen is utterly unproductive and frankly pathetic. And while Ms. Watson’s American accent was kind of distractingly exaggerated, it actually ultimately worked. The overly-girlish, self-conscious softness in Watson’s accent accentuated the self-absorption and ignorance existing in the Nicki character, completing the picture of just how shallow these teenagers really were, though I still prefer the less exaggerated (but definitely not understated) performances of Claire Julien as the edgy Chloe and Taissa Farmiga as Nicki’s giggly sidekick Sam.

I originally dismissed The Bling Ring because it failed to explain the likely troubled home lives of many of these teens, but I see now that I was missing the point. While these kids may (or may not) have come from troubled backgrounds, The Bling Ring explains that ultimately, they were produced by today’s avaricious, attention-seeking, celebrity-worshipping society. The saddest testament to this valueless and unproductive society that Coppola identifies is that the member of the Bling Ring on whom Watson’s character is based got her own reality TV show as her criminal trial was unfolding. Instead of punishing an individual who broke into homes and stole in order to fuel her hedonistic lifestyle, this moral-less society rewarded her with attention, further blurring the lines between right and wrong.

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