The Bling Ring (2013)

Untitled-1Here is a movie that has nothing much to say, but says it well. How much can be said of a bunch of high-rolling teenagers who go from celebrity house to celebrity house, stealing over three million dollars in possessions anyway? Not very much indeed. I’m sure the stories of the real perpetrators would have been genuinely fascinating, even enlightening. But here, in Hollywood land, their tale becomes nothing but a retelling of — as Marc puts it — Bonnie and Clyde.

The perps are known as The Bling Ring, a group of five troubled teens in an alternative school in California who dream of big ambitions but fail to see the path that will lead them there. They are headed by Rebecca (Katie Chang) and Marc (Israel Broussard), a not-really-a-couple couple who meet on Marc’s first day. I’m not sure how, or why, Rebecca is attracted to him, but she sees something in him that she thinks will be beneficial for her naively diabolical schemes. Together, they go around robbing the houses of friends and acquaintances, taking Porsches for joy rides and lounging on expensive living room furniture. But remember, they dream big. Their plan quickly escalates from small-time robbery to celebrity-sized burglary. On the menu: Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox, Lindsay Lohan, and Audrina Patridge.

Why are they so obsessed with these famous people? The Bling Ring never really tells us. It begins with a robbery already in progress, then travels back a year to before the troupe is even assembled. From then on, we are led on a series of robberies and parties that don’t bring us anywhere, or tell us anything we need to know about the youngsters we may or may not need to sympathise with. They drink, dance, lick their lips, smoke, snort, rob, drink, dance, and it goes on, over and over again. They repeat the cycle so many times, and with so much arrogance, that we are inevitably unable to feel anything for them. I wanted them to face justice, sure, but I wasn’t going to cry a river if they didn’t.

The movie is directed by Sofia Coppola, who dresses it up with about as much zing and style as the houses its characters infiltrate. The soundtrack is vigorous, and many of the shots are beautifully composed. Take, for instance, the scene in which Marc and Rebecca burgle Audrina Patridge’s house. It is filmed in a single wide shot that very gradually tracks in. The kids are like black ants scurrying around an ant hill; they enter through the front door and then make their way around the house, up to the bedroom and in to the bathroom, then back down and out. We see nothing of what they take, and nothing about how they feel. We are simply there, watching.

Are we meant to just watch? Are we not allowed to take sides? The Bling Ring is good at what they do, but there is no skill involved. By the end of the movie, I felt none the wiser. I hadn’t gained anything, nor had I lost anything. I didn’t even feel like dancing or snorting some coke. I had witnessed a bunch of snobby teens perform some criminal acts and get their comeuppance, but that was it. The movie offers nothing else, probably because it has nothing else to offer. It is based on a series of Vanity Fair articles about the robberies; how much detail can be taken from that? It takes no sides, and presents no argument. It has no meaning, and because of the way its characters behave even in the face of prison time, it has no lessons to be learnt. All it has is pomp and style when, quite clearly, it is meant to solicit more.

Best Moment | It would have to be that tracking shot I mentioned.

Worst Moment | Not really a single moment, but a series of moments. I didn’t mention it in the review, but I wasn’t happy with any of the performances. Many of the main cast are newcomers, and it shows. Katie Chang, in particular, delivers lines that are off key and unconvincing. Even Emma Watson, the movie’s main attraction, falters from time to time. Strongest performer? I don’t think so.

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