' ' Cinema Romantico: The Bling Ring

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bling Ring

One of the most exemplary passages you will see at the movies this year involves three quick, successive scenes. Teenage Chloe, played by the captivatingly raspy Claire Julien, is driving her fetch ride in a severely intoxicated state with her blingy compatriots, rhyming with the beats blasting from her sound system. Suddenly, another car crashes right into the driver's side door. The film cuts to Chloe, hair askew, scar on her forehead, taking her mug shot - front, right, back, left. The film cuts to Chloe on her high school steps, hair well-coiffed, scar presumably hidden by makeup, all dolled up, bragging about her blood alcohol content. Not one single mention of this DUI is ever made again.

Partly this is to demonstrate the inability to learn lessons, of course, but, even more, it's about how the characters at the core of cinematic mad scientist Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" seem to be not so much unconcerned with actions & consequences as entirely unaware of the fact they even exist.

"The Bling Ring", based on Nancy Jo Sales' Vanity Fair article about actual thefts in 2008 and 2009 of Hollywood glitterati, is not interested in rigidly following the true-to-life plot from Point A to Point B to Point C and re-documenting all the facts of the case. These are people weaned on MTV "reality", episodes of "The Hills" and "Laguna Beach" where plot consists of what purse goes with what shoes and why you, like, totally can't pair zebra with leopard. This is not a film of philosophical monologues and studious drama, it is a film of tossed off rap lyrics and Facebook status updates. I never realized it until this film, but Facebook is essentially a blue and white US Weekly for the commoners.

Marc (Israel Broussard) is the New Kid at school. He becomes besties with Rebecca (Katie Chang) who perhaps senses that his unease, his closeted gayness, his desire to fit in somewhere with someone makes him an easy mark to pull into her easygoing illicitness of checking for unlocked cars to score purses and cash and entering unlocked swank L.A. homes for even more.

Eventually, they up the ante, brazenly striding into homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, literally leaving with shopping bags of stolen jewelry and designer clothing, bandits in big ass sunglasses instead of ski masks. Not even concerned with keeping their stealing a secret, they invite their partygoing pals Chloe and Nicki (Emma Watson) and Nicki's younger sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga) along on their shopping sprees. It is telling that they do not simply grab the goods and skulk off into the night. They break in and proceed to try on clothes, check themselves out in mirrors, drink booze, do drugs, gab, gossip, lay in beds, hang out in homes in which they are trespassing. It's not necessarily wanting more, it's wanting a particular lifestyle.

At least, this is what Marc says in his voiceover that dots the soundtrack throughout, although most of his quotes come across as nothing more than boilerplate. And that Coppola merely shows the beginning and the ending of the inevitable court date of The Bling Ring and nothing in-between, no standard issuances of I'm-sorry and I-know-what-I-did-was-wrong and I-promise-to-do-better, brilliantly conveys the characters forgoing even the decency to falsely profess regret.

By design, no one here has much personality aside from what they wear and what they appropriate. Parents are essentially non-existent. The only one we spend much time with is Nicki's mom - played by Leslie Mann in what appears to be a parody of Amy Poehler's parody in "Mean Girls" of a Reality Housewife - who has chosen to homeschool her children even though her homeschooling amounts to little more than offering a flow chart of Angelina Jolie's career. These are kids utterly into themselves but, simultaneously, have no idea nor, more importantly, interest in who they are. They are pointed emotional ciphers.

You could argue the characters are living exclusively for the moment but I think that oversells their self-awareness (as opposed to their self-absorption, which is considerable). I would argue they have reached an ineffable plain of anti-enlightenment.


Anonymous said...

Nice review Nick. You could argue a lot of things about these characters, but I wish there was more to them than just what was presented by Coppola. Her insistence on not judging these characters, but more of showing what it is that they did, only gives us a glimpse of what to talk about, rather than allowing us to see the whole picture. Somehow, I just wished there was more to them as well as her direction.

Alex Withrow said...

Excellent review here, my friend. I love your lead, it really describes the elitist mentality of the Bling Ringers. "DUI, meh... just another night on the town."

I really enjoyed the film. I had some minor issues, but they were minor indeed.

Oh one thing, Leslie Mann. DEFINITELY not a parody. If you watch Pretty Wild, Mann perfectly encapsulates the warped mentality of her real life character. It's actually kind of terrifying.

Nick Prigge said...

Dan: Thanks. I genuinely think to have shown more or gone more in depth with the characters would have betrayed how shallow they were supposed to appear and how they were essentially nothing beyond what they wore and what they stole. I don't know. It all worked for me.

Alex: Oh, wow. That's scary to contemplate, yet not surprising. I went back & re-read the Vanity Fair piece after I saw the movie. I'd forgotten that all those Emma Watson quotes were LITERALLY Alexis Neiers quotes. I mean, I mean, I mean...there are no words.