By Jake Howell

Un Certain Regard Review: The Bling Ring

Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring opened Un Certain Regard and the reception is mixed, to say the least. Judging from online reactions, fellow critics at Cannes seem to call it “vapid” or other synonyms for empty—but it’s a tricky divide between whether or not the general vapidity of the film is intended satire or altogether a mistake. For my money, The Bling Ring is an early faux pas of the Festival; an overwhelmingly dull, why-do-we-care picture that was must have been far more fun to shoot than it is to actually consume.

Based on a Nancy Jo Sales article in Vanity Fair, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” Coppola dramatizes the real-life exploits of the Hollywood Hills Burglars, a mostly-teenaged band of bleeding-edge fashionistas robbing celebrity mansions for fun and profit. But calling this adaptation something other than a gassy flight of fancy from Sofia Coppola would be like trying to skip rocks in a wading pool: there’s just not enough depth. The Bling Ring isn’t heavy enough to matter in a larger conversation, nor is it entertaining enough to be decent popcorn fodder. Fans of Emma Watson—a supporting member of the troupe—may enjoy watching her try on different clothes and conspicuously break bad, but this would be more generally appealing if the rest of the film provided a reason for us to give a hoot.

From the vacuous trailer [below] we should have known the film is rinse-and-repeat; a 90-minute feature of careless break-ins, high-end name-checking, and copious drug use. When not stealing or snorting cocaine, the Blingers hit the nightclubs and other underground locales, spending their stolen cash, fencing their  goods, and dancing in slow-motion to electro songs. The only other real diversions are the sprinkles of external exposition framed around the burglaries a la The Social Network’s closed-doors procedurals, though Coppola’s film lacks the zingy dialogue of David Fincher’s great film. The depositions given by post-arrest Ringers provide Coppola with the rudimentary element to get the party started, but the script is brought down with poorly-conveyed motivations, a disregard for character growth and stiffness across the board. If the film were a five-minute music video for one of the soundtrack’s many head-bobbers, it would probably be okay. But a feature this doesn’t make, especially given Coppola’s filmography and her played-out obsession with rich people and their ennui.

It’s not clear if we’re supposed to find The Bling Ring’s title players forgettable, but they are. The only male of the bunch, Israel Broussard’s Marc, is a decent-enough lead; indeed, starring across from Broussard is the equally-okay Katie Chang (Rebecca). But others in the group are barely worth singling out due to Coppola’s cookie cutter treatment of the ensemble.  Emma Watson’s Nicki is frankly only mentionable because of her overt success as Harry Potter’s Hermione, and that her superstar fame is likely part of the joke—this is a shame and a missed opportunity. Last year’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower showed Watson’s charms are not simply magickal ones, and she could have done more if Coppola demanded her of it. At the end of the day, it’s useless to bother distinguishing between each of the Blingers, as their throng of superficiality is only separated by their different intonations and silly catchphrases. They steal and have fun. And then they get caught.

The film’s satirical thrust—which is broached somewhere in the first act and is repeated until the credits ad boredom—is around the idolization of celebrities and the fakeness of it all. But this raises a bigger question, though:  with the clichéd script, Emma Watson’s wooden American accent, and the stereotypical depiction of American high school students (everybody’s an asshole), are these obvious flaws intended to reflect of the film’s major theme of fakeness? Or are they just some of the many jagged edges in a poorly-conceived, irrelevant adaptation? Count me in on the latter.

2 Responses to “Un Certain Regard Review: The Bling Ring”

  1. S.C. says:

    OMG did u rly just say tht?!?

  2. Mike Ock says:

    Sofia Coppola is a film maker with nothing to say.

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Julian Schnabel: Years ago, I was down there with my cousin’s wife Corky. She was wild — she wore makeup on her legs, and she had a streak in her hair like Yvonne De Carlo in “The Munsters.” She liked to paint. I had overalls on with just a T-shirt and looked like whatever. We were trying to buy a bunch of supplies with my cousin Jesse’s credit card. They looked at the credit card, and then they looked at us and thought maybe we stole the card, so they called Jesse up. He was a doctor who became the head of trauma at St. Vincent’s. They said, “There’s somebody here with this credit card and we want to know if it belongs to you.”

He said, “Well, does the woman have dyed blonde hair and fake eyelashes and look like she stepped out of the backstage of some kind of silent movie, and is she with some guy who has wild hair and is kind of dressed like a bum?”

“Yeah, that’s them.”

“Yeah, that’s my cousin and my wife. It’s okay, they can charge it on my card.”
~ Julian Schnabel Remembers NYC’s Now-Shuttered Pearl Paint

MB Cool. I was really interested in the aerial photography from Enter the Void and how one could understand that conceptually as a POV, while in fact it’s more of an objective view of the city where the story takes place. So it’s an objective and subjective camera at the same time. I know that you’re interested in Kubrick. We’ve talked about that in the past because it’s something that you and I have in common—

GN You’re obsessed with Kubrick, too.

MB Does he still occupy your mind or was he more of an early influence?

GN He was more of an early influence. Kubrick has been my idol my whole life, my own “god.” I was six or seven years old when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I never felt such cinematic ecstasy. Maybe that’s what brought me to direct movies, to try to compete with that “wizard of Oz” behind the film. So then, years later, I tried to do something in that direction, like many other directors tried to do their own, you know, homage or remake or parody or whatever of 2001. I don’t know if you ever had that movie in mind for your own projects. But in my case, I don’t think about 2001 anymore now. That film was my first “trip” ever. And then I tried my best to reproduce on screen what some drug trips are like. But it’s very hard. For sure, moving images are a better medium than words, but it’s still very far from the real experience. I read that Kubrick said about Lynch’s Eraserhead, that he wished he had made that movie because it was the film he had seen that came closest to the language of nightmares.

Matthew Barney and Gaspar Noé