The 400-Word Review: The Bling Ring
By Sean Collier
June 24, 2013
People without much to do have played prominent roles in a number of Sofia Coppola’s movies.
In Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansson played a bored young newlywed, sequestered in a Tokyo hotel room; the isolation made her confront her lifestyle and future. In Marie Antoinette, Kirsten Dunst played the aloof royal, disengaged by palace life as France decayed outside.
And in The Bling Ring, a group of California teens are given everything except direction, meaning and purpose by their equally airheaded parents. But where Lost in Translation had introspection and Marie Antoinette had depression, The Bling Ring has greed and entitlement.
Because this isn’t Japan, and it’s not Versailles. This is America in the 2010s, and celebrity is the only thing that matters.
Based closely on a true story, The Bling Ring follows a pack of overdrugged and oversexed L.A. youths as they develop an odd compulsion: breaking into the homes of celebrities to steal clothes and cash, gaze at stars in absentia and generally pretend they’re important. The crew grows more brazen, making return visits and hawking stolen baubles for drug money; even as their names and faces appear on the news, they keep up the game.
There’s a hint in that: These small-time crooks are firmly schooled in the P.R. adage that any publicity is good publicity. These kids sit in clubs to take paparazzi-style photos of themselves and act blase when Paris Hilton walks by. Of course they’re on TV. Who isn’t? (In fact, some of the real-life kids were filming a reality TV pilot for the E! Network as the crimes were being committed.)
It’s a window into a world of privilege that isolates its occupants from even the slightest hint of self-awareness. One of the kids can only interpret his own actions in a sort of pseudo-therapeutic psychoanalysis; another casts herself as the victim in a see-through bit of spin doctoring, unironically pointing out that she’ll probably end up running a country one day, so this is bad news. Even Warhol would slap these punks.
In a big-picture sense, it’s a horror movie; we’re shown that internet culture, TMZ and a sea of red carpets are conspiring to create little monsters that walk among us. In another, it’s a comedy — but its conclusions are too depressing to draw much laughter. However you classify The Bling Ring, it’s alarming, compelling and essential filmmaking.
BFCA Score: 9
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark