'The Bling Ring' (2013) Movie Review - Cannes Film Festival

The Bling Ring movie review cannes
Taissa Farmiga, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Katie Chang and Claire Julien in The Bling Ring
Photo: A24

I didn't walk into Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring needing a message movie about today's celebrity obsessed society. We've seen that film and what more is there to say? It's an empty and vapid existence and it's plaguing our society as more and more people are familiar with who a celebrity is dating and "reality" television is dominating the airwaves. It would seem we all want to live any life other than our own, but this has been said time and time again. Yes, The Bling Ring explores this territory too, the hope is there is something that sets it apart.

For me, that hope rested on the shoulders of Coppola. I hoped she would bring the same level of enthusiasm in story-telling she brought to Marie Antoinette, bending the story to her taste and personal aesthetic rather than letting the story simply tell itself. What I got was a mixture of the two worlds that doesn't entirely work, as she seems to be stuck between the energy she brought to Marie Antoinette and the passive approach she brought to Somewhere. The two styles don't necessarily mesh that well together, though they do provide several great, one-off moments and a pretty killer soundtrack, just not an entirely well-rounded package.

The Bling Ring
Grade: C+

The Bling Ring"The Bling Ring" is a A24 release, directed by Sofia Coppola and is rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references. The running time is .

The cast includes Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Taissa Farmiga, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Claire Pfister, Georgia Rock, Maika Monroe and Halston Sage.

Based on the Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins" by Nancy Jo Sales, the film focuses on a group of five teenagers who decide to burglarize celebrity-owned homes in the Hollywood Hills. The ringleader is Rebecca (Katie Chang), a celebrity-obsessed, Lindsay Lohan wannabe who first zeroes in on the new kid in school, Marc (Israel Broussard), first "checking" cars and second, heading over to Paris Hilton's house while she's out of town and getting her first taste of the celebrity lifestyle.

Tracking their whereabouts online and breaking into their homes while they're out of town, Jessica and Marc soon bring along their equally shallow friends Niki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien) to rob the likes of Audrina Patridge, Megan Fox, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson and Orlando Bloom.

Their methods are fairly rudimentary in there is no concern over leaving fingerprints or strands of hair and they appear to only enter through unlocked doors. Of course, security cameras catch their every move and the fact they're eventually caught is never hidden from the audience as their testimonials to the Vanity Fair reporter are heard throughout.

The official synopsis for the film seems to suggest this is a story of "kids will be kids" and "didn't we all make mistakes when we were young?" Is this the nature of adolescence nowadays compared to the house-egging and graffiti painting rebellion from past generations? Does egging someone's house come close to comparing to the millions of dollars worth of goods these kids stole from the TMZ-targeted celebrities they've been tracking? If this film is telling a story designed for the audience to reflect on mistakes we made when we were young I have to say, none of my mistakes landed me four years in jail.

On the flip side, there may be something to that notion. After all, it's made clear in the film the reason these kids are doing what they're doing is largely out of boredom, not to mention the rush that comes as a result. Either way, it's not a fascinating angle from which to view the film. You can only watch these kids break into so many homes before you begin to grow tired of their antics, even when one of those break-ins is impressively framed from a distance such as the scene captured at Patridge's house.

Instead, what I found more fascinating was to attempt to compare what they're doing to the people they are doing it to. Soon enough these five are loaded with jewelry, new clothes, watches and cocaine and treated like celebrities at their favorite night club. For all intents and purposes, they are living the celebrity lifestyle and it's just as soulless and empty as you assume their lives would be if they weren't. With that the case, isn't the film just as much a commentary on the celebrities these people are stealing from as it is on them?

Bling Ring victim Paris Hilton not only has a brief cameo in the film, but allowed her actual house to be used for the scenes in which the group ransacks her closets and parties in her entertainment room, complete with a stripper pole. As one critic friend here in Cannes said to me, either Paris Hilton is incredibly smart or incredibly stupid and it rings, oh so true. If Hilton isn't aware of how narcissistic and meaningless she is made to look as this thieving quintet walks past the seat pillows she owns with her face on them, her magazine covers adorning the walls and the closest within closets within closets these lowlifes are pilfering from, then she either has an angle or simply doesn't get it.

The film's final scene seems to imply the problem isn't entirely with the youths portrayed in the film as much as it's a problem with us all. Throughout the picture members of the Bling Ring are questioned by various news and entertainment reporters and when the questions turn to asking one of them about her stay in prison just a few cells down from Lindsay Lohan and whether or not she heard Lohan crying, it's quite obvious that while these kids are empty and soulless, society isn't too far behind.

The performances match their characters with Chang and Broussard getting the bulk of attention and Broussard getting the majority of our sympathy as the only member of the group that could ever be considered a victim of circumstance. Unfortunately that angle of the storyline is never fully fleshed out thanks to a rather blasé introduction to his character where, within the same sequence, Marc goes from an outcast to an insider thanks to Rebecca making an out-of-the-blue introduction. Suddenly, he's within the inner circle.

Watson and Farmiga play sisters with Leslie Mann playing their clueless mother whose obsession with the teachings of "The Secret" are all you really need to know about the "home schooling" they're receiving. And Julien's Chloe is something of the Tara Reid of the bunch, thanks to her raspy, chain smoker voice and no bullshit attitude.

Coppola has dedicated the film to her late cinematographer Harris Savides who passed away following the film's production. Savides also shot Somewhere for Coppola and the scene I mentioned earlier, slowly zooming in from a distance at Patridge's house is the one shot most will likely walk away from this film remembering. However, it's moments such as that one that make the break-ins interesting while most of the others are either shot in montage or as straight forward robberies, all of them bleeding together and adding little to the story from either an art or entertainment perspective.

I can't entirely condemn the film for being "been there, done that", or perhaps I don't want to because I have an affinity for Coppola's work, but if I'm being honest, this is a lesser production that says what's already been said. Unfortunately Coppola didn't put enough of her own stamp on the story to really propel it to greater heights as that is what I've come to desire from her work and what has really set her apart from many of her peers. It could be argued The Bling Ring is empty as a result of being about empty characters. Or, it's just empty...


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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Art/ Art

    Thanks for the reviews Brad, hope you are enjoying the festival. The film sounds average, others agree with you. Hope Inside Llewyn Davis and Only God Forgives deliver. I feel like Only God Forgives may be lacking talent, but trailer looks intriguing and it seems to have an interesting exciting story.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Torryz/ Torryz

    For me Coppola is overated.

  • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

    I first saw a trailer for this film in front of Spring Breakers, and I remember instantly thinking that it looked terrible. But, as I paid more attention to the film and its marketing, I found myself rather interested in it. Reviews have certainly not been great, though I am still anticipating this film. It looks as though it is rather a "fluff" piece, albeit there are times when fluff can be fun, and I hope that this is one of those instances.

  • http://couchpotatodigest.blogspot.com Matt

    Ouch, I'm a bit disappointed given this is my second most anticipated film of the year. But I guess this will help level my expectations. Though I don't think I would necessarily mind a message movie, even if the theme has been explored before- maybe it's because I'm part of the generation depicted in the film, but I usually find movies about celebrity obsession fascinating. But I guess I'll decide for myself when I see it next month.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RupertPupkin/ Rupert Pupkin

    Great review Brad. With regards to your thoughts on Paris Hilton, I'm going to side with the view that she simply just didn't get it. Anyway can't wait for your further Cannes coverage

  • SohoDriver

    Lost in Translation is easily one of my all time favourite films. I liked The Virgin Suicides, and I loved Somewhere. I've yet to see Marie Antoinette.

    As for your review, that disappoints me. I'll definitely still go see The Bling Ring, and I hope it speaks to me more than it did you, Brad. Hopefully Sofia has a more consistent career than her father.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

    I must be getting old as young people stealing clothes holds no interest for me, I would like to see more of the directors other films though as I lurve LIT

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

    Thanks for taking time to write such and in depth and thoughtful review, Brad. This may have hurt your 'more than 5 hours a night' sleeping average!
    I am a bit disappointed to hear that you thought it was only a C+. In fact, I have been more excited about it's release than most films in June. I never thought that it would be some 'meaningful' movie with a perspective that we have yet to see. I am just looking forward to an interesting slant on a well known theme.
    Coppola usually puts a unique stamp on the stories she explores. Once I see Bling Ring, I can see for myself.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    Yeesh. Didn't expect a grade this low.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    "this is a lesser production that says what's already been said" - That's exactly the impression I got.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Elijah/ Elijah

    Lemme just say I always look forward to you going to Cannes. I'll probably rent it, but there's probably 5 other movies I'd rather see playing in the upcoming days. How many years have you been going?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      This is the fourth.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheMovieGuru/ The Movie Guru

    This is disappointing.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Podolski/ Podolski

    If Hermoine's in it, I will see it.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/racquetman/ racquetman

    It sounds as shallow and immediately forgettable as a pop song . . . . and it has that pop song title to match. Pass.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/dolancoleslaw/ dolancoleslaw

    Saw this at the premiere. A C+ sounds just about right. I think the international crowd are going to love it. Noticed a lot of laughter throughout. People outside of America are going to find Bling Ring a fascinating look into this shallow culture wheras most Americans already see this everyday (at least I do).

    I think she made this as a sort of reaction to the criticism that her last film was too 'boring' which I disagree (Somewhere was definitely her best film). But with this, its this unbalance as she's taking the fun & energy from Marie Antoinette and the visual passivity of Somewhere to create an empty film exploring empty characters.

    Also, I thought Watson's performance was not the best. It's very caricature and never once did I believe any of her lines.

    Visually, I'm sad to admit it didn't work. With the late Savides being my favorite DP, I hate to say it, but the film looked plastic having shot on digital (intentional perhaps?). The only standout shot I can recall being the slow zoom on the Patridge's mansion.

  • Keith Krepcho

    I'm surprised you didn't name check Spring Breakers in your review. I do see this as a thematic prequel to Spring Breakers in that a trip to Florida on the lam could easily be within these characters future.
    I think you make a good observation in this film being closer to Coppola's work in Somewhere than Marie Antoinette, but I do think that her passion was placed in getting the details right. From the set and costume design of the main characters, to the spot on way that they talk, I found this film terrifying. This upcoming, celebrity obsessed and drug fueled set of well-off sociopaths are a plague that Burgess and Kubrick couldn't have dreamed up.
    All in all, I did find this to be a far more engrossing film than Somewhere and as terrifying as any horror film I have seen all year.