Purposeless Beauty: 'The Bling Ring' Review
Inspired by the curiously true story of a group of teens burglars who robbed several A-List Hollywood celebrities (including, but not limited to Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan) by simply breaking into their multimillion dollar homes while they were away on vacation or work, The Bling Ring is a true crime drama following the high school gang and their progression from simple shoplifting to stealing a collective $3 million in cash, clothes, and jewellery.
Helmed by acclaimed director Sofia Coppola and starring Emma Watson, Katie Chang, and Israel Broussard, The Bling Ring is, unfortunately, an anodyne piece of cinema and stains Coppola’s otherwise hallowed filmography. Uninspired and unwilling to pass along any discernible themes or messages through its otherwise beautiful cinematography, the film fails in several areas but mostly in its hesitance to pass judgement on the characters it features or failing that, present the audience with enough information on the characters’ personalities, motives, and struggles that they can interpret the story and its possible message in their own independent way.
When it comes down to it, any flaws Sofia Coppola’s films suffer from are never visual in nature. Her signature feeling of floating detachment is a staple in her many dramas and infuses the films with a bittersweet melancholy that can only be described as excruciatingly beautiful. Though I don’t doubt her talent, I’m not the biggest Sofia Coppola fan and find more than a few of her films pitifully overrated. Despite that, however, even I can admit that the atmosphere of her films is always a nuanced treat. That same expertise is not absent from The Bling Ring but instead of enhancing the film cinematically as well as thematically, it unfortunately only fulfills the former. The Bling Ring is often beautiful, but it is a beauty without purpose. Coppola fails to show her characters as complex, and thus their paper thin complexions fail to enamor anyone remotely concerned with getting something out of the film.
But what do I mean by something?
Something important, or at least of urgency to the characters within the film and something that we, the audience, can also become equally concerned with. Instead of supplying the relatability this film so desperately needs, Coppola’s project simply follows the teens around as they commit crime after crime until surprise, the reckless fashionistas are caught and sentenced in the film’s purposeless and exceptionally anticlimactic final act. Worst of all, that same melancholic magic is useless in the context of the movie as that disconnect serves to distance the audience from the characters rather than allow them to view the film from a wider perspective.
Ultimately, The Bling Ring is a misstep; it’s not an immense one, but it certainly isn’t the transparent and honest true crime drama Coppola intended. The reality may well be that these teens were shallow, superficial, and concerned only with the latest fashion and trending makeup. Watching these teens rob mansion after mansion in pursuit of these things, unfortunately, does not make a right or interesting film. There should be some ultimate purpose behind portraying such unlikeable people in a scorchingly fashionable light without providing any context as to why they chase the transiently tangible as fiercely as they do. Yes, the audience may impart their interpretations onto the meaning of the film, as they should with any piece of media, but when a movie fails to raise these questions itself and does not seem to attempt to do so in the slightest, one must ask, what’s the point?