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The Bling Ring Review

bling-ring-movie
RATING:
(3 STARS)

The Bling Ring is director Sofia Coppola‘s most satisfying and thematically precise film since 2003’s Lost in Translation. Her eye for style, subtly irreverent tone, and tendency to dissect the matters of Hollywood’s most privileged all find a glass-slipper-like fit in this story, based on a real events, of a group of teens who break into and steal from the homes of their favorite celebrities. The film loses points for its poorly focused, sometimes flaccid attempts at defining its characters, but that’s small potatoes when one of her generation’s most talented filmmakers bounces back (finally!) in a bold and surprisingly fun way.

The titular crew of four young women and one young man share mostly equal time on screen, though the seemingly heartless Rebecca (Katie Chang) is unquestionably the ring leader, while Marc (Israel Broussard) is the closest thing this group has to a sympathetic individual. Filling the crew out is Chloe (Claire Julien), Nicki (Emma Watson), and Nicki’s sort of sister, Sam (Taissa Farmiga).

It’s Rebecca’s idea to pay Paris Hiton’s crib a visit after finding her address online and learning that she’s out of town. She and Marc find the key under the mat and poke through her gorgeous things. After bragging about it to the other girls, the “ring” is born, and soon, they’re all stocking their closets with goods formerly belonging to Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox, Lindsay Lohan, and others. Not a thought is given to security cameras, which is a shame for them because it isn’t too long before their faces are captured, which means a swift and ugly end to their blissful capers.

For a while, The Bling Ring ticks along flawlessly. There’s enough differentiation among its characters to give you a sense of who they are, even if the characterizations aren’t particularly deep. Nicki’s mom practices The Secret. Chloe wrecks her car while under the influence. Marc loves wearing Paris’ high heels. And while they’re knocking off these houses, the film is actually quite enjoyable. Coppola captures each heist with a different shot distance, which gives the film a nice amount of variety, and while they aren’t stealing, they’re partying. Say what you will about the shallowness and self-absorption of the characters, but when they’re having fun, so will you.

Once they’re caught (and it’s not a spoiler to say they get caught…it’s shown in the film’s first five minutes), the film gets distracted. The more interesting characters—and those who played a larger role in the overall scheme—are tossed aside in favor of Nicki. And while Emma Watson is better here than she’s arguably ever been before, I couldn’t for the life of me see why Coppola wanted her character to be the one giving us what’s effectively the entire group’s mea culpa. It’s a bizarre choice that knocks the film down a bit in my estimation, but certainly doesn’t ruin it. If anything, Nicki at least remains consistent from beginning to end.

Outside of Watson’s performance the rest of the cast is fine. There’ll be a natural inclination to call Watson’s the best of the bunch, but I suspect that’s mostly because she’s the actress we know best and she’s playing so against type. Israel Broussard doesn’t have many credits to his name, but he’s terrific as the film’s biggest male presence. He’s often alone on screen, and there isn’t even a whiff of self-consciousness as he glances oh so longingly at the expensive wears he’s swiped. For an individual who begins the film a new kid at school and a bit of a loner at that, he undergoes a pretty stark transformation.

Coppola’s command of craft has never been more evident. The film begins on a downer of a note as we’re reminded of the passing of Coppola’s usual cinematographer, Harris Savides (the film is dedicated to his memory). Savides shares credit on The Bling Ring with Christopher Blauvelt (see Meek’s Cutoff), and together, they craft a really interesting aesthetic—dark and cheaply glamorous. The sound design, too, is playful. One of the film’s better sequences is the robbery of Patridge’s house, which you’ll take in from quite a distance away, somewhere in the Hollywood hills, and with only the sound of chirping crickets to accompany the action.

Most, I think, wouldn’t say Coppola was in need of a comeback, but as someone who simply loathed Marie Antoinette and Somewhere, it’s nice to see Coppola making films that work more often than they don’t. That’s the simplest and perhaps best way to describe The Bling Ring: more works than doesn’t. That’s not exactly fawning praise, but the film drops the ball close the end zone. Still, it’s an entertaining, well-made movie, and I’m officially excited to see what Coppola has in store for us next.

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