In Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, teens break in to celebrities’ homes, call out the names of the brands they’re lifting, and converse in grating affected voices. Nearly always set to loud music, some of which is poorly sung along to, the escapades are preserved though iPhone self-portraits which are then promptly uploaded to Facebook for their peers to drool over. And again…and again…and again. Unaccompanied by reasons to care about these wealthy Los Angeles burglars, the repetitive cycle quickly turns self-destructive, the bulk of its social criticism lost to it characters’ crescendoing annoyance.
Struggling to expand Nancy Jo Sales’ 2010 Vanity Fair article into a 90-minute film, Coppola succumbs to the same trappings of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, assuming that an overdose of vapidness is the way to send up entitled Millennials. While her bandits, among them Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga, skillfully exude the selfishness and deceit inherent of these characters, with nothing of note to say, the effect is sadly minimal. The youths’ parents, chiefly represented by Leslie Mann as Watson’s homeschooling mom, fare just as poorly. Adhering to the tenets of The Secret, doling out Adderall like Flintstones’ vitamins, and holding up Angelina Jolie as a role model for her children, it’s a clear case of the blind leading the blind, though Coppola’s execution grants these half-assed scenes a similar monotonous vibe.
Against these troubling odds, Coppola nonetheless manages a few promising moments. In a refreshing move, the homosexuality of the gang’s lone male member, Marc (Israel Broussard), is casually introduced and never ridiculed or treated in any critical manner. Coppola also masterfully executes several sequences of near intolerable suspense, one involving an inevitable car crash and the other a loaded gun that’s foolishly waved around like a toy. These scenes are all the more remarkable considering the protective feelings they inspire for characters who could use a little consequence in their carefree lives. A filmmaker not known for violence, Coppola milks these somewhat random segments for maximum tension before settling back into her screenplay’s tired routine.
The Bling Ring’s most alarming facet, however, may be its anonymous feel. Other than the occasional lovely shot, most notably a slow zoom on Audrina Patridge’s glass house while its insides are being ransacked, the film lacks Coppola’s signature visual beauty. And though the subject matter is clearly in line with her past work, she’s sadly game to trade her distinct insight of the Hollywood elite for a conflict to which she’s clearly an outsider. As such, her critique of the generation at hand merely comes off as partially formed, a good idea done in by its one-track approach.
Rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references.
The Bling Ring is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.