By Jake Howell firstname.lastname@example.org
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.