Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cannes 2013: The Bling Ring Review

Director/Writer: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann

Synopsis: Adapted from Nancy Jo Sale’s Vanity Fair article, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”, The Bling Ring follows the exploits of a group of LA teenagers who broke in and stole from celebrity houses.

The Bling Ring reflects heavily on the obsession we have with stardom – watching a film about teenagers obsessed with celebrities, who steal from their idols to get closer to them in some way, and eventually become public figures themselves. Choosing to watch the film is less about the performances (though it is interesting to see how Emma Watson directs her post-Potter career) and more about your curiosity with the salacious tale of robbery in the Hollywood Hills. It sparks a lot of interest in the glamour of A-Z celebrities (including Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson and Orlando Bloom) and also their naive lack of security, it seems. Following a group of image-obsessed youths does make you mourn for society but you can look at yourself by the end of the film and realise you are similarly fascinated by the style and scandal that paints the tabloids.

You can agree, in part, with their actions – taking advantage of the lack of security and having fun at the literal expense of many million-dollar-earning celebs. Still, there is never an empathy created with the teenage group and much like The Social Network, you see their chosen obsession as crude and somewhat pathetic, leaving you to dislike each one. The only member who deviates from this notion is Marc, played by talented newcomer Israel Broussard. His wariness about certain aspects of the Bling Ring’s actions, and the slight peer pressure that leads him into the crime humanises him above the rest. His narration that plays over some scenes is superfluous in its attempt to add depth to the character, when all that is needed to do this is Broussard’s seamless acting style.

The other cast members cannot be criticised for their performances (and Watson and ringleader Rebecca played by Katie Chung are superb) but they are portraying characters we do not wish to care for. At points you cannot tell if an understanding is meant to be established through Coppola’s writing and directing, and the director’s trademark ambiguity about people searching for meaning in their lives overpowers her depiction of morale and sympathy. However, they do make you laugh with their ignorant and obtrusive entrance into the world of the media, which always keeps you entertained and occasionally in awe of their story.

Further to the point about style, this being Harris Savides' last film (before he sadly passed away) the film looks wonderful. Certain shots are picture-perfect – such as the group running away from one burgled house, silhouetted by the lights of LA – embracing the theme of flair.

The film is fun to watch but has an end that feels unfulfilling and almost inconclusive. It acts as humorous warning to our attraction to the A-listers and also as a note about the apparent laissez-faire lifestyle of LA. Sure to spark some discussion and Googling about the Bling Ringers, it is an entertaining foray on contemporary culture, but lacking in sections.
The Bling Ring opened the Un Certain Regard Selection at Cannes 2013, but was not in competition.
Also posted on LiveForFilms 

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