The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, 2013)

Sofia Coppola’s less prolific but frequently illustrious career has, if anything, defined her as a singular, moreover infinitely talented filmmaker. From her deft ability to perpetuate the inherent if tragic intrigue of the Lisbon sisters (The Virgin Suicides) to a poignant examination of lonely individuals at their respective crossroads (Lost in Translation), I’ve found myself enamored with her minimalistic flair and knack for restrained but ever-present human emotion. Having not seen Marie Antoinette, I can only speculate as to how much a departure The Bling Ring is for the auteur in question – a bombastic, narratively shallow-minded but acutely cautionary true tale of a group of celebrity-obsessed teens robbing their idols in a foolish attempt to emulate the Hollywood lifestyle.

I’m as fascinated with the cult of celebrity as the next person, but in terms of familiarity, we’ve all seen individuals like these before – borderline brain-dead, emotionally vapid as such and all but liberated from their parents’ tenuous grasp. Even still, Coppola’s creative flourishes manifest themselves perfectly as a sort of welcome obnoxiousness, the ostentatious chit-chat, club scenes and soundtrack mirroring The Bling Ring gang’s off-kilter perception of the American Dream almost perfectly.

From each instance of haphazard, uneducated burglary to blatant substance abuse, it’s clear that we’re meant to feel uncomfortable as Marc, Rebecca and friends thrive in their so-called “element” until inevitable judgment arrives. For as stylistically savvy The Bling Ring is throughout these varying exploits, the film fails to nail within itself a dramatic or emotional crux. Shock value notwithstanding, the performances are convincing but grating given the sheer unlikability of the real-life counterparts portrayed, therefore the latter act court sentencing sequence carries with it an inherent, beautifully rendered weight but only on a base level. In other words, these kids get what’s coming to them, yet they react as we expect they would with the slight exception of Emma Watson’s hopelessly aloof Nicki.

Cautionary, eccentric, purposefully bombastic if familiar in scope, Coppola’s latest possesses her requisite prowess but to a noticeably lesser degree. In admirably illustrating the outlandish true story that inspired it, The Bling Ring successfully recreates these increasingly unsettling events to a T, from re-envisioning the group’s booze and drug-addled nightlife escapades to their respective moral bankruptcies. All things considered, the film doesn’t quite capitalize on these strengths when it has the chance, although The Bling Ring as a whole certainly sets out what it aims to accomplish, even despite a purposeful lack of the subtlety benchmarking Coppola’s more acclaimed works.

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