The Bling Ring (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★
Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan–what do these women have in common? Their homes have been broken into by the so-called Hollywood Hills Burglars, a group of teenagers who are obsessed with the lifestyles of celebrities. Based on Nancy Jo Sales’ article, director Sofia Coppola looks at the personalities of those responsible and it is up to us to cast the judgment.
The picture is mostly detached from its subjects–which is entirely appropriate given that it is supposed to be satirical. Instead of focusing on what might be going on inside the subjects’ heads–such as guilt, shame, or fears–the attention is on the need to steal, the gleeful squeals during the act, and the aftermath of the crime as they try on clothes and jewelry that they know belong to someone else. Maybe for them breaking and entering into a celebrity’s private space is the closest they will get to living a similar lifestyle.
The actors portraying the real-life thieves do a wonderful job in portraying emptiness. Katie Chang as the ringleader plays Rebecca with offishness so alluring, you want to get to know her and hate her at the same time. Israel Broussard, on the other hand, plays a more empathetic figure. Marc is the new kid at school and he wants to belong. Though he is the most aware that what they are doing is wrong, he would rather have friends and commit crimes than be lonely and morally right. Most entertaining to watch, however, is Emma Watson. The scenes in which her character, Nicki, trips over her own hypocrisy (and recovers) made me laugh out loud, the execution very similar to Marcos Siega’s underrated dark comedy “Pretty Persuasion.” Plenty of so-called reality shows show us that people like Nicki do exist and that’s scary.
When it comes to pacing, the film might have benefited from showing less burglary because halfway through it starts to get repetitive. Instead, the camera should have taken its time to linger on the objects that have been stolen. This way, the fetishism is highlighted. Or the burglaries should have had a different approach each time. For instance, I wanted to see close-ups of hands grabbing the goods–a way to really communicate to us a sort of thirst or need to “own” whatever “it” is. Underneath it all, what the subjects have is not only an obsession but a compulsion.
“The Bling Ring” feels empty because the subjects are hollow inside. Notice that the teenagers never talk about their interests outside of whatever is on a magazine or some silly gossip website. When a person does talk about her goals for the future, there is a self-mockery to it. However, it does not mean that the film itself is a void. It is occasionally comedic, often unbelievable, and sometimes sad, too.
For some of these “Hollywood Hills Burglars,” this is it. Instead of striving to make something out of their lives, they settle for being privileged, vapid, and accomplishing nothing. What is more tragic than a life laid out to rot?