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The Bling Ring (2013)

July 18, 2013

3/10 Veruca Salts

I weep for the future.

The Bling Ring is based on the true story of a lonely boy with a flair for fashion who moves to a new school in one of the glitzier nooks of LA. He befriends a popular girl who also shares his taste for the finer things in life, like whatever the hell Miu Miu is. At first, everything’s fine and dandy as they daydream about what it’d be like to have threads like LiLo. Then, in a brazen effort to make that dream come true, she starts stealing wallets out of strangers’ cars. Shit gets very real, very quick, but since wussing out would be social suicide, the new kid ignores his better judgement and starts maxing out those credit cards. As their wardrobes begin to grow, so does their confidence. So much so that these two twerps and their a-hole friends start breaking into the homes of their Hollywood idols. They steal, they party, they live it on up, but alas, all good things must come to an end.

So here’s the story: Fandango screwed me. There I was a couple weeks back at my local multiplex, giddy as could be to see Before Midnight. Why? Because Fandango said it would be there, and if you can’t trust Fandango, who can you trust, people? So I went up to the counter with cash in hand and handed it to the lady with a smile on my face. Jesse and Celine were just moments away…

“One for Before Midnight, please!”

“Actually, Before Midnight left last Thursday. We have three new movies though!”

It took a couple seconds for the words to actually register as this bastard of a pit started forming in my stomach. There must be some mistake, I thought. The moose outside should have told me…


“Don’t use Fandango.” She gives her head a sympathetic shake, clearly this has happened before.

So there I was with a $20 in my hand, two hours to burn and a life lesson to unravel. My options were two: The Bling Ring or The Heat. The rest, dear readers, is unfortunately history.

It was the first time Fandango had ever let me down and I still don’t know why it happened in the first place. Whatever the horrible, horrible reason was, I ended up going with a movie that I had no desire or intention to see in the first place. So I guess I’m to blame for that one.

It’s nothing against Sofia Coppola because how could I ever harbor anything against the gal who gave us Lost in Translation. Nothing against Emma Watson either, she’s been aces from the get-go. My initial aversion to this movie is the same aversion I eventually bore towards last year’s Compliance in that I couldn’t comprehend it’s reason for existing. And as much as I’ve tried to answer that question, I still haven’t managed to convince myself otherwise. So without further ado, let’s just lay it all out there.

On the one hand, there’s the idea that by bringing this story to the big screen, Coppola is putting a mirror up to the world we live in. The kids in this movie are spoiled brats devoid of morals with ignorant parents who enable them completely. Not one of them grows throughout their experiences and the plot is driven entirely by them stealing shit ad nauseum. They are the worst, they do not develop and it wouldn’t be so bad if it they weren’t based on real people. Then again, given the real celebrities and real behavior that they’ve all come to idolize, is it really their fault for being brought up in the fame-hungry society we’ve created for them?

As far as justifications go, that’s the best one I’ve come up with. But alas, the train of thought rolls on…

The rub with all of this is that none of it is coming as news. Jesus Christ, all you need to do is turn on Bravo, E! or MTV to see that these kids, these parents and these sorry excuses for role models are, unfortunately, real as can be. Maybe Coppola was hoping this would come across as Kids-meets-The Hills, something that would shock the wits out of parents far and wide. But if that was her intended aim, she probably wasn’t prepared for Spring Breakers.

Or maybe in light all their real-life counterparts’ attempts to save face in the public eye, Coppola’s holding them accountable for being the awful human beings as they are. Or maybe I don’t know. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.

The upside to all this is that Coppola’s inspiration for making this movie, whatever it may be, leaves a lot to interpretation. Writing and developing characters is not a skill that’s lost on her and she easily could have told this story any number of ways. This could have been a great dark comedy if she wanted it to be, nor is it a stretch to imagine some twisted version where we’d actually sympathize with these kids. Heck, this could have been Catch Me If You Can for the Millennial Generation.

As intriguing or enjoyable as those interpretations may sound, the interpretation we’re presented with is anything but. The way I saw it, The Bling Ring is an exercise in moral stagnation that was both a struggle to wade through and more so to warrant. Perhaps if we lived in a world where kids like these weren’t already worshiped and glorified with overnight fame and Super Sweet Sixteens, we might have a different Verdict on our hands. But with things the way they are, fuck these kids and the Bentleys they rode in on.

I know that glorifying these kids wasn’t Coppola’s intent, it’s just that I can’t help but feel like any press is good press for this bunch. Even though this is a story about how crime doesn’t pay, about how “right” and “wrong” have been warped by Harvey Levin, I still feel like there are too many people out there who are gonna watch this and feel differently. The lesson for them will be that crime totally pays if you cover your tracks, and even if it doesn’t, they’ll put you in a movie. It’s a win-win all around.

If I had my druthers, Coppola would have gone about her merry way onto some other wonderful project instead of giving these kids that 16th minute. They don’t deserve it and we don’t need the reminder.

But again, this is just one man’s interpretation.

In other news, The Bling Ring has a fantastic opening credits sequence and it’s really good-looking to boot. Can only say so much about the cast considering what they had to work with, but hey, Gavin Rossdale has a bit role, which is neat for all you Bush fans, I guess. I’m having a hard time pegging this as a “bad” movie because even if it wasn’t for me, there’s definitely something there. If anything, it’s a misguided movie, one that I’d have a hard time recommending for fear that someone from Team Breezy would up and treat these kids like martyrs. But hey, to each his own.

Killin’ me here, Fandango.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2013 4:18 am

    Looking forward to seeing this. Was pleasantly surprised by Somewhere; perhaps less the narrative and more the visual and musical aesthetic.

    At the very least, given what you’ve said about how good this film looks, I can expect the same!

    And you have my sympathy about missing Before Midnight. Have you gotten round to seeing it? Reviews I’ve seen so far are getting me pretty darn excited. Might even go see it tonight.

    • July 18, 2013 8:13 am

      Never saw Somewhere, really wanted to though. Not sure why I haven’t amended that situation yet.

      And yes, it looks as good as it sounds, so that was a nice bonus. Other than that, really hope you enjoy it more than I did.

      As for Before Midnight, actually saw it yesterday and, holy hell, did it live up to expectations. See it immediately, should have a review up in the next few days or so. God, what a great trilogy.

      And thanks for stopping by!

  2. JeremyEM permalink
    July 18, 2013 6:23 am

    I can understand where the reviewer is coming from. Trouble is I really liked this film.

    Second trouble… how to rationalise that fact into some kind of plausible theory of film making, story telling..?

    Well I don’t think that this film was an accident or a mistake and the production team just thought “…oh shit its crap – well let’s just blow some more money and put it out there anyway..”. After all Sofia Coppola’s films make almost nothing at the box office at the best of times.

    And I doubt that the Cannes Film Festival chose the film to open ‘Un Certain Regard’ because the organisers wanted to humiliate themselves.

    According to the actors, Sofia Coppola knew exactly what she wanted. She was open to suggestions – nevertheless they always ended up doing exactly what she wanted.

    SC has admitted that she is unlikely ever to make a film that has a broad appeal.

    She is a pre-digital photographer by training (although she decided to use digital cameras in this case because it suited the subject she does not like digital). So I suspect she is fascinated by what magic can be made by combining moving images and sound.

    Other stuff like plot, character development, ‘message’, story arc, spoken words are just those annoying things that have to be in there somewhere.

    • July 18, 2013 8:28 am

      And that’s totally cool. Totally dig why you liked it.

      Hope I didn’t give the impression that I thought this movie was an accident or anything because I can appreciate what it’s going for even if it didn’t work for me. And I totally dig Coppola as a film maker, she clearly knows what she’s doing and this is no exception. I don’t mind that the characters are unlikable, I don’t mind that she didn’t make an accessible movie with broad appeal, the world is a more interesting place with movies like those in it. I guess I’m mainly taking issue with these kids, their real-life counterparts and the message that’s being sent by bringing them to the big screen. Because, like I said, fuck these kids, they don’t deserve it.

      Such a subjective movie though, hard not to appreciate where folks like yourself are coming from with it. With that said, thanks for stopping by and don’t be a stranger!

  3. lilmountain permalink
    July 19, 2013 9:58 am

    For me, it was a trippy ride down youths highway of obsessive crass affluence, brought me back to the days I lived in Cali and visited LA… the waiters alone were like this —pretentiously entertaining!

    • July 19, 2013 10:03 am

      Haha. One more reason you couldn’t pay me to live in LA. Glad you liked it more than I did, and holy hell, was there obsessive crass affluence to spare with this one. Some truly crappy people on display here.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • lilmountain permalink
        July 19, 2013 10:07 am

        You and me both, love the weather but couldn’t take the “crappy people” in high dosages. I liked it, but it’s far from Sophia’s best effort. Cheers and look forward to more reviews!

      • July 19, 2013 10:08 am

        Agreed, it’s no Lost in Translation. Then again, few things are.

        That revolting cloud of smog hanging over the city ain’t doing it any favors either.

        And thanks! Look forward to seeing you around!

  4. lilmountain permalink
    July 19, 2013 10:15 am

    My sentiments exactly! And in the words of Biggie “Cali, great place to visit” Say hi when in NY

  5. July 21, 2013 5:25 am

    Hey nice review man! I enjoyed it! Feel free to check out mine!! 🙂

  6. July 23, 2013 4:59 pm

    This a great (and fair) review that I don’t have much to add to. However, I have to question the Fandango thing. My surface trust of the site has never been there. Honestly, how can trust a company that uses Sock Puppets as spokespeople? And evil looking sock puppets too? I just use IMDB showtimes myself.

    • July 24, 2013 2:59 pm

      Thanks, man! And it’s nice to here this whole Fandango thing isn’t an isolated incident. They’ve always done me right before, but alas, this was some bad business. Where you three weeks ago, dude? I needed you!

  7. July 24, 2013 1:55 am

    “Like whatever the hell Miu Miu is”, haha. Oh Aiden!

    So it’s that bad, huh? Was kind looking forward to it, — ish! — as I quite like Sophia and absolutely adored “Somewhere” (please do yourself a favor and watch it already!), but yeah, the plot here doesn’t really excite me too much either. I don’t agree that characters necessarily need to develop, mainly because millions of people all over the world never develop, and I like that realism. But I guess it also depends on the character. I have an idea how these kids in that movie are, and I could imagine they just might piss the hell out of me. Not really crazy to watch spoiled brats being bored and empty, unless I guess it was a Haneke film and they were killing people in some really sick way. Sophie has an air of boredom around her, and I think she tends to use boredom as a style element in her films. Up to now, it hasn’t bothered me, ’cause her stuff always looks so good, but this one might not be my cup of tea either. I’ll have to wait and see 😉

    I get what you mean with “they don’t deserve it”. I recently saw some TMZ video or something where they stopped that kid somewhere around LA… you know the boy who this character is based on. The rea deal, and he was so FUCKEN proud that the paps were after him, and his mom, who stood next to him, was so PROUD of him and she constantly tried to look pretty for the camera. I wasn’t surprised that this kid did what he did when I observed his mom’s behavior. Real attention whoring, and kinda gave off a vibe that no matter how you get seen, get seen! So yeah.

    • July 24, 2013 3:05 pm

      Haha. I wouldn’t call it bad, I’d still say to give it a look if you’re interested and dig all things Sophia. And I still have no idea how I haven’t gotten around to Somewhere yet, that was high up on my list back when it came out. Still in love with that Strokes song in the trailer:

      Good observation in that there are most certainly people out there who never grow or learn from their mistakes, and I don’t think I would have taken such issue with it if the characters hadn’t been based on real people. Geez, never noticed the recurring theme of boredom in her movies either. How did I miss that? Double good observation!

      As for that kid and his mom on TMZ, I rest my case. The. Worst.

  8. July 24, 2013 4:06 pm

    Have you seen the TMZ video?

    • July 24, 2013 4:10 pm

      Have not, I’m sure it’ll do wonders to restore my faith in humanity.

  9. August 1, 2013 12:01 pm

    Ugh, yeah.
    I almost never care about the subject matter of Sofia Coppola’s films. LiT is really lovely but nothing else in her filmography has ever appealed to me. It sounds like this film isn’t as much of a departure for her as I thought it might be.

    • August 2, 2013 9:25 am

      I know the feeling. Still need to see Somewhere, but can’t say much for The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette. And you’re correct, I doubt this is going to change your opinions of the girl.


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