Sunday, October 6, 2013

Film Review: The Bling Ring

"The Bling Ring" **** (out of ****)

I often feel we live in a world where too many people care about the pointless, mindless, small stuff. Hollywood gossip or "entertainment" gossip, is big business. Countless, mindless TV shows tracking down so-called "celebrities", telling us where they go to party, what designers they like and of course, most importantly, who is sleeping with who.

You know the names of these programs and you know who the so-called "celebrities" are. People who are famous for no reason at all, other then being a) pretty b) socialites and c) getting into trouble and/or making sex tapes. They are shallow, empty people with nothing to contribute to society. And I don't think too highly of the people who swallow this garbage on a daily basis either, whether by profession or for leisure.

"The Bling Ring" is a dynamite expose on our culture and the desire to want to be famous, wear nice clothes and meet these "celebrities" and the lengths people will go to in order to achieve these things.

Unfortunately "The Bling Ring" hasn't been met with the greatest critical praise. The sheep, er I mean critics, pretty much all said the same thing (they usually do) and tried to perpetuate the idea into our head that the movie isn't very good. Nothing happens. Director Sofia Coppola doesn't tell us anything new or interesting about these people. She doesn't judge them.

Hogwash I say. Coppola doesn't need to make any statement. The movie doesn't require a "message scene", where someone tells the characters and by extension the audience, these people are shallow. Our society is shallow. The "celebrities" are shallow. All one has to do is watch the movie. Who would defend their actions? Who would defend these people? Who would not criticize this culture of "celebrity"? Only people currently making money from it. No one other person needs a lecture. By simply telling us this true story Coppola doesn't need to cast judgement on these characters. She merely needs to tell their story. We, the audience, can do the rest.

"The Bling Ring" is based on a true story, based on a Vanity Fair article written by Nancy Jo Sales and adapted by Coppola herself into a screenplay. The film follows a group of young, wealthy people, mostly girls (Katie Chang, Emma Watson and Claire Julien) and a guy (Israel Broussard) who find out the address of people like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Jude Law and others, and go to their homes to steal. Why? Mostly for the heck of it but also because it is the closest they will get to be part of that lifestyle, which they yearn so desperately for. To be famous for nothing. To party and do drugs, drive nice cars, wear nice clothes, meet attractive people and have endless amounts of money without doing any actual work. I guess, who wouldn't want that?

Sofia Coppola is a filmmaker I've thought highly of but was never overwhelmed by her work. So far she has directed six feature films. Each have their share of defenders. Her two biggest critical darlings may have been her debut film "The Virgin Suicides" (1999) with Kirsten Dunst (who makes a cameo appearance) and "Lost in Translation" (2003) with Scarlett Johanson and Bill Murray. She also directed "Marie Antoinette" (2006, which I have reviewed) and "Somewhere" (2010). But I think "The Bling Ring" may be her best film. I had the most enjoyable time watching it and despite what others have said, I thought the movie had something to say and showed us our celebrity culture at its worst.

The movie is almost broad enough to play as satire, simply because it is far too difficult to accept these characters are people. They don't function in a society which I can relate to. Yet, to my horror, I can imagine there are people in the world like these characters. I think Coppola finds the right tone for the material. Her style is well suited to this story.

For me, it is one of the year's best films. A real accomplishment for Sofia Coppola.