STARRING: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann, Claire Julien, Georgia Rock, Gavin Rossdale
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Sofia Coppola
For me, as a director, Sofia Coppola has never fulfilled the promise of Lost In Translation. Marie Antoinette and Somewhere are both alright films, but neither of them really pack the creative punch that Coppola got when she pulled a career-best performance out of Bill Murray. If I’m being honest, I think The Bling Ring takes a further step away from Lost In Translation than the previous two films. Gone are the stylistic efforts of a rising director. Instead, we are left with a film that feels like it could have been directed by anyone coming out of film school. If Lost In Translation felt like pure inspiration, The Bling Ring feels devoid of any.
Based on the true story of a group of kids living in Los Angeles who break into homes and steal from celebrities, The Bling Ring introduces us to our odd male protagonist Marc (Israel Broussard). Marc is new at his school, and somehow makes immediate friends with Rebecca (Katie Chang). Rebecca somehow senses the lost soul deep inside Marc and takes him under her wing. Big mistake. She comes up with the idea to break into a mansion, because Marc met the kid whose parents own the house. They steal some things, and I don’t think Marc has a realization of what is to come. As the film progresses, Rebecca continues to want to break into more homes, and Marc becomes her accomplice, as he has fallen in love with/feels brotherly love for Rebecca. Later, they incorporate the rest of their friends into their break-ins (including Emma Watson, as a delusional celebrity wannabe), and the homes of Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and others will never be the same.
I think what I was missing with this film is the unexplained reason of ‘why’ for Rebecca. There’s a vague hint at her just wanting to be a part of the culture, but she just seems to abruptly want to start breaking into homes, almost immediately after meeting Marc. In the film world, there feels like a greater reason. Rebecca is played as a smart, calculating ringleader, yet she has no motive better than just wanting to be in the “in crowd”? It’s hard to feel sorry for Marc, who knows what he’s doing, and chooses not to stop, even though he clearly knows they could get in trouble. As for the rest of the rotating supporting cast, only Emma Watson really stands out, because she plays her Nikki character as an awesome representation of everything that is wrong with reality television. She is a combination of every famewhore that has ever spawned from a reality series, thinking that just because a camera is on them, they’re famous.
The rest of the characters aren’t explained well enough to really have a purpose on screen. There’s a kid, Rob, who goes along for one of the break-ins, but couldn’t possibly be less developed as a character. Nikki also has a little sister, who I forgot existed until she went on one of the break-ins. For a film fixated on fame, it tends to forget about the supporting cast a lot.
Couple that with some lazy direction from Coppola, and The Bling Ring is just an alright film. There’s an extended shot of Marc trying to be sexy, I guess in front of a webcam. Characters come and go, and everyone blends together. There’s an idea that Nikki is already minimally famous before the break ins, but it isn’t fully explained. She’s presented as a wannabe, but a club owner treats her in one scene like she’s had some level of exposure. There are pieces of the puzzle missing here, and it just feels like an incomplete film, or at least not very well thought out.
However, if I compare it to the similar effort from earlier this year, Spring Breakers, then I’d be throwing Oscars at Coppola. I consider Spring Breakers to be unwatchable, and at least The Bling Ring isn’t one of the worst films of the year. It just feels like a wasted effort of something that could have been so much better.
FINAL GRADE: C