Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Bling Ring (2013)

Kids you don't have any reason to like steal from a bunch of celebrities you don't have any reason to care about.

That might be one of the biggest problems with The Bling Ring.  When I see a bunch of bored, entitled Southern California kids steal from someone like Paris Hilton, I find I have a hard time caring about any of it.  Not that Paris Hilton deserves to be stolen from, but if these kids really broke into her house that often and took that much stuff from her without her noticing, it's hard to argue that any of it had much value to her, or that she doesn't have "too much".

Let's not get into that though.  The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola's latest film based on a series of real Hollywood buglaries that occurred a few years ago.  Despite watching a lot of movies, I don't follow celebrities all that much or invest myself all that much into their personal lives.  Even then, I was pretty aware of the events depicted in The Bling Ring.  I saw plenty of news reports, and even casual watchers of E!'s The Soup can likely recall clips shown about then.

In fact, I was kind of surprised they bothered to change the names of the characters for the movie.  Maybe they had to do this for legal reasons, but even I knew Pretty Wild's Alexis Neiers and Tess Taylor were two of the people involved in "The Ring".  Pretty Wild chronicled Neiers' arrest and trial during its single season run.  It's not like this knowledge is a secret.  Hell, taking a page from the actual Bling Ring, you can do a quick Google search and find out just about anything you want to know about them if you so desired.

After transferring to a new school, Marc (Israel Broussard) meets Rebecca (Katie Chang), and they become friends.  Looking for something to do, they break into an acquaintance's home while they are away on vacation.  Since their first attempt was successful, they set their sights higher and look for celebrities that they know are out of town making films or doing promotions.  They are able to Google their current whereabouts and addresses, then simply go there, hang out and just take what they want.  It's actually kind of interesting to see how rich celebrities must have felt secure to not really bother with alarm systems or even locking their doors.  Maybe they figured that living in a gated community or an affluent area was security enough.  Lesson learned for them, I guess.  Again, I'm not saying these people deserved it.  Even if you don't like some of these celebs, they are still the victims.

Marc and Rebecca brag to friends, more of them get involved, and that's pretty much it.  It starts out interesting enough and it does manage to be entertaining, but it's pretty one dimensional.  You really don't learn anything about these people or have any reason to like or sympathise with them.  It's basically a series of montages of kids breaking into homes, and then spending the money at clubs and doing drugs.  If there was more going on than that, then it might have been compelling.  There's a message about these kids not having any conscience and being so obsessed with celebrity that they'll do anything to be a part of it, but it's just on the surface.  The Bling Ring isn't much deeper than the actual people involved.

This is naturally going to get a lot of comparisons to Spring Breakers, and it makes sense.  Both feature a group of sociopaths doing bad things.  I definitely was not a fan of Spring Breakers, and while I don't think The Bling Ring is a great movie, or even a particularly good one, I enjoyed The Bling Ring for several reasons over the former.  Rant mode on:

  • It's based off real events that I'm actually aware of.  This isn't someone's Spring Break fantasy.
  • I'll take the acting of Emma Watson and cast over Vanessa Hudgens and co. any day.
  • The Bling Ring didn't make me feel like an old pervert while watching it.  There's no nudity or half naked girls prancing around.
  • It's message isn't as heavy handed.  I get what these movies are trying to say, but thing is, I'm almost 40.  I've seen and been around a good amount of stuff.  I've experienced some of these things first hand and dealt with the consequences of them.  There's not much movies like The Bling Ring or Spring Breakers say about the world that I haven't already seen in other films for years or had my own thoughts regarding.
  • There's actually consequences to the actions in The Bling Ring.  These people were sentenced to jail time.  Some have even reformed since then.  Spring Breakers ends with two bikini-clad women shooting up a house and killing people with automatic weapons, without reloading or taking an single hit, and then driving away in a Lamborghini without any care in the world.  At least the kids in The Bling Ring  aren't murderers.
  • I didn't think The Bling Ring was nearly as pretentious.  Spring Breakers had more style and a better aesthetic about it, but I was annoyed as shit by its repetitive and non-linear storytelling.  The Bling Ring has style too, but Spring Breakers was more memorable in that regard.

As far as those performances go, there are few good ones.  I though Israel Broussard was nicely nuanced in his role as Marc.  There are times where he does come across as a decent enough kid that's gets caught up in these events in order to fit in.  He admits to being in love with Katie Chang's Rebecca and I liked her as well.  Leslie Mann as a clueless mother that lives her life by The Secret was another bright spot.  Of the cast I enjoyed Emma Watson the most. She really nailed the sound and affected speech pattern of a vapid, Southern California teen.  You forget that she's English.  My only complaint about her is that she's not in the film more.  With her being arguably the biggest name in the film, it seems odd they didn't give her more screen time.

One thing I was a little curious about was the sexual orientation of Marc.  I don't recall if it was implied that he was gay, but if not then I find it really weird that he never tried getting on any of these girls.  He's around them while they are drinking heavily and doing coke.  Plus, they are always changing around him.  Seems like he should have been rolling in it, unless he didn't swing that way.  He did seem to know a little too much about fashion though, so I guess that's my answer.  There's nothing wrong with Marc, but if it were me I would have been taking every opportunity to get somewhere with any of these girls.

Another disappointment for me was that I thought The Bling Ring was going to be more of a dark comedy.  The trailer was very funny, but it's another case of all the funny scenes being spoiled by the trailer.  In the actual film, those scenes fell kind of flat.

The Bling Ring is a fairly entertaining film about a series of real life crimes, but it ultimately doesn't dig deep enough behind them or the people involved to have all that much to say.  Aside from a few good performances, there's not much memorable about it.  It would make for a good rental along with Spring Breakers (and I know I'm not the only person to suggest this) and then you can make your own comparisons between the two.  You may even come away from watching both with an even worse opinion regarding our declining values and celebrity-obsessed culture.  Sounds like a party, right?

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars


  1. Good Review! If I had to choose between Spring Breakers and this I would go for Spring Breakers but this one is ok as well even if it is less eventful.

    1. Thanks, Erik. I feel like I'm in the minority, but I'm definitely in the camp of people that really didn't like Spring Breakers. That might be due to the fact that I'm becoming a cranky, old man. :)

  2. Good review, Erik! You're right to make the point that this movie doesn't offer much for the viewer to really CARE about. Coppola had a lot of wiggle room to really take this true story and make it her own, but she flatly stuck to the facts. I would have loved her to go deeper into the characters, although they aren't deep at all, but I would have liked more insight on Marc.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree. Marc seemed like the only character that had any depth to him and it would have been nice to dig into that rather than just show us more montagues of them stealing and clubbing.

  3. Could have been so much more interesting had Coppola gone that extra mile with her direction. However, she didn't and for that, it's kind of dull. Good review Erik.

    1. Thanks, Dan. I was really anticipating this one, but came away a little disappointed. I wish the film would have given us a little more.