The Bling Ring Review
Sofia Coppola’s screenplay originally opened with a Nicole Richie tweet: “Life is crazy and unpredictable... my bangs are going to the left today.” Instead of semi-ironically philosophising Richie’s already semi-ironic tweet, the crime comedy opens with handheld camera footage of teenagers breaking into a Hollywood home. That’s Coppola’s take: celebrities are demystified, and the viewer becomes a silent participant. When the music first kicks in, it’s Sleigh Bell’s “Crown on the Ground” – a song that already sounds like an MP3 poorly ripped from YouTube and blasted on tinny laptop speakers. That low-quality, imitation-led aesthetic is the tiny sheen added to the original Vanity Fair article on which the screenplay is based.. Remember the elaborate plans in Tower Heist and Ocean’s Eleven? Well, these kids used social media to work out when a celebrity was at a party, and then found the address through Google Maps. Remarkably, Paris Hilton leaves a key under the doormat. The gang resembles a Nickelodeon version of Spring Breakers: four girls and a Harry Styles lookalike commit crime, snort lines and take selfies with dollar bills – but always redolent of adolescents tasting alcohol for the first time. They even document their exploits on Facebook (pre-Instagram, so the embarrassment isn’t smudged out) before sort of learning a lesson. The leads deliver sass and childishness when required. They’re fun roles (with Emma Watson gifted the most memorable lines), but hard to distinguish apart from physicalities. With the loss of identity, the YouTube generation shies from creativity and morphs into impersonating Hollywood stars. The group aren’t searching for money (they seem well off already), but desperately seeking clothes. If they could wear Lindsay Lohan’s skin, they would. Coppola’s direction is usually so expressive, but The Bling Ring is plainer. Maybe back in 1785 Marie Antoinette chilled out to The Strokes, but these kids rap badly to Kanye West – out of tune, missing the beat, and skipping half the words. These threadbare scenes unveil the burglars as oblivious to a world outside of social media. The mantra becomes: why bother doing something if you can’t present the evidence to the internet? After all, what is my compulsion to share this review with you, the reader? I’m unsure why Coppola chose such a reserved stance: it rarely celebrates their exploits more than any typical montage, and is too timid to slam their shallowness. Any social satire is more of an amusing skit (like Watson’s post-arrest reinvention). It’s watchable, if only for the excellent source material, but can’t add much to the Vanity Fair article. There’s a snippet of the adaptation’s potential for one short minute when Israel Broussard shares a secret: “I loved her. I really did.” His crush glides past in slowmo, accompanied by dreamy music and the action pauses; the throes of teenage adventure when everything is experienced for the first time, seemingly without consequence. The rest is like the protagonists’ karaoke sessions: fun at the time, but instantly forgettable.