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I hate The Bling Ring ― except not really. Let’s start from the beginning.
Sofia Coppola’s fifth feature films dramatizes the real life story of a group of teens. The teenage lawbreakers are portrayed pretty competently by mostly unknown actors and Harry Potter alumn Emma Watson. Our protagonist comes in the form of Marc (Israel Broussard), an introverted kid with self-esteem issues. We meet him just as he is about to begin his first day at a new school. Luckily for Marc, he doesn’t have to wait long before he’s befriended by fashionable, self-assured Rebecca (Katie Chang) . She introduces him to her group of friends, they share a joint, go clubbing and Marc finally feels like he belongs. Oh yeah, and they go on a spree of celebrity home break-ins that includes stealing millions worth of clothes and jewelry. This crazy and exhilarating lifestyle continues, until they get caught.
The biggest fault that I found in The Bling Ring was not its inability to keep me entertained. Others will surely feel that the purpose of movies is to entertain you. I do not agree, and that is a different discussion altogether. Marc is a decent character, but the movie’s attempts to portray him as the sympathetic, audience stand-in mostly fall flat. It wouldn’t bother me were it not so obvious from the outset how much the movie wants you to like him. Much more appealing is Watson’s character, Nicki. She lacks just enough self-awareness and posses the right amount of charm and guile to win you over. You know she’s a hypocritical, lying burglar, but you just can’t help liking her.
Now as I stated earlier, I hated The Bling Ring. Hate is definitely too strong a word, but I did not enjoy watching this film. It was boring, repetitive to the point of exhaustion, and beyond vapid. However, as tempting as it is for me to tear this film apart, I simply cannot. I can understand the initial impulse to reject this movie as a failure (and gathering from my fellow theatre goers reactions, I am not alone). But I’m here to say that this movie succeeds for the very same reasons that make it difficult to sit through.
I admired this film for the way in which it avoided glamorizing celebrity culture and the gang of teenage burglars. It’s true that it falls prey to the same pitfalls of portraying wealth and splendor. This group of white privileged teens are all thin and beautiful. They drive around in nice cars, wear the latest fashion trends, and walk down the street in a menacingly cool slow-mo shot. They steal without breaking a sweat and are so fearless that they loot Paris Hilton’s home several times. Coppola’s direction and soundtrack all seem to underscore how badass these kids are, until you realize that it’s doing the complete opposite. The movie is almost entirely a series of montages of one theft after another. The first crime is intriguing, but then it is followed by another crime, another luxurious house, more bling, more shoes, more wads of cash, more slow-motion shots, and so on to the point where it loses any and all appeal. It became a gaudy excess that revolted me. I began to turn to the characters for some form of relief only to realize that there was none. They were empty husks of human beings who could only express their love of material objects. All of this amounts to a movie that feels monotonous and dull. In reality, it is a movie with a scathingly critical look into its character’s desires, actions, and lifestyles. I cannot truthfully say I liked this movie, but I definitely respect it.