Bling Ring a Shiny Package with Nothing of Value Inside
- Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2013 21 Jun
Release Date: June 21, 2013
Rating: R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references
Genre: Crime, Drama
Run Time: 87 minutes
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Pfister, Leslie Mann
Before the screening, a representative for The Bling Ring told the audience the film was 87 minutes long. You could have fooled me; it felt like a lifetime before credits rolled. A painfully slow pace, a story arc that didn’t, and a "plot" that focused on celebrity-worshiping, amoral, self-obsessed teens behaving like idiots add up to a massive waste of time.
Sadly, The Bling Ring is based on a true story. A group of California teens really did break into celebrities' houses to steal stuff and pretend they own the glamorous Hollywood lifestyles of their victims (side note: it's hard to feel too sorry for the victims, considering they wandered off to New York or Miami leaving their doors unlocked or the key under their mat. All that money and they can't afford a security system? But still). Caught up in the ecstasy of pawing through someone else's treasures, one of the young thieves exclaims, "This is sick!" How right she was.
Writer/director Sofia Coppola (Somewhere) said "finding a way to make the characters relatable and sympathetic—this was very challenging." No kidding. Unfortunately, Ms. Coppola wasn't up to the challenge. There isn't a single likable character in the film; when one hopped-up little idiot was waving a loaded gun around I found myself actually hoping she'd shoot someone (preferably herself). See what I mean? This film is such a bad influence it even incites mild-mannered reviewers to crave violence.
The character we’re supposed to care about is Mark (Israel Broussard), described as "the moral center" of the group. If by "moral center" they mean occasionally suggesting leaving the scene of the crime before immediately caving to the contemptuous commands of ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang), then maybe that's true. He's a pretty squishy moral center and such a nonentity of a character he's practically invisible. Then there’s Nicki, played by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter films) of all people. She said the role "gave me permission to do loads of crazy stuff" which may be true, but her self-absorbed character was an irritation to watch (kudos on the valley girl accent, though). Nicki's erstwhile adopted sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and hedonistic wild-child Chloe (Claire Pfister) round out the gang, but they're all pretty interchangeable.
Even more annoying than the teens were their parents. Nicki's mother (Leslie Mann, This is 40) is a devout follower of beliefs espoused in the book The Secret who homeschools her girls by asking them to expound on the glory of Angelina Jolie. Mark's dad is so willfully clueless he stands twenty-four inches from a rising curl of pot smoke and never bats an eye. These are parents who don't have a clue what their children are up to and apparently don't much care, which goes a long way toward explaining the teens' actions.
The best thing about the film is the peek inside celebs' homes. The scenes inside Paris Hilton's pad were actually shot in her house (her closet is a revelation). She was a real-life victim of the Ring and offered her place to Coppola for filming; she even makes a cameo appearance in the film. Sadly, even the wonder of an entire room of designer shoes grows thin after repeated visits.
It's a given that the Ring will get caught; these dull-witted delinquents brag about their exploits to anyone who will listen and update their Facebook pages with photos of themselves holding their stolen swag. One would like to think getting busted would lead to at least a smidgen of remorse, or clarity, or common sense, but no: this wakeup call apparently came with a snooze button. Tons of Facebook friends and Vanity Fair interviews (the film was based on a Vanity Fair article) far outweigh the inconvenience of a criminal record. "I'm a huge believer in karma and I think this situation is a huge learning lesson for me to grow and expand as a spiritual human being," Nicki smirks for the cameras. Sadly... probably not.
Bottom line: it’s a shiny package with nothing of value inside. Don’t bother.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Teens (and some adults) buy and use cocaine, smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and drink to excess at clubs, despite the fact they’re considerably underage. They steal drugs from medicine cabinets, drive while under the influence, and generally do everything you tell your child not to do.
- Language/Profanity: In addition to their other charms, the characters are potty-mouths. The f-word and variations of it, the b-word (frequently used as a term of endearment), the s-word, God’s name taken in vain, and a variety of coarse language. Even when they’re not actually profane, the characters most often speak in a rude, hateful, disrespectful manner.
- Sex/Nudity: Girls seen in their underwear, considerable revealing attire; boy wears high heels and dances in a suggestive manner apparently for his computer. Girls discuss whether they would "do" a guy; multiple coarse references to sex. Suggestive dancing in a club and with a pole (in Paris Hilton’s “nightclub room”). One scene of an intoxicated girl offering herself to an older man; they embrace on a bed before the scene changes.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Characters exhibit nonstop reckless behavior, driving under the influence which leads to a car crash, horseplay with a loaded gun leading to accidental gunshot (no injuries). Some mild tension when the group is engaged in crimes.
- Spiritual Themes: It's something of an object lesson of what happens when people do "what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25) and a little scary to think what would happen if a whole generation was like these teens. Maybe it should be required viewing for complacent parents? Nicki’s mom is a devotee of The Secret, which clearly doesn't act as a moral compass for this woman, who appears to have sold her soul and offered her children as sacrifices on the altar of fame.
Publication date: June 21, 2013