The Bling Ring (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.