Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Crime, Drama
Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Somewhere, The Virgin Suicides)
The Bling Ring (opening today) is one of the best movies of the year, but it is also one of the most unsettling. Writer/Director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Somewhere) creates a very powerful film, one told with simplicity yet carrying with it some profound reflections on how young people think and act in today's celebrity-obsessed culture. It's down-right scary.
Based on actual events, it tells the story of five privileged teenagers - one boy, Marc (Israel Broussard) and four girls, Rebecca, Nicki, Sam and Chloe (the ringleader is Rebecca, played by Katie Chang, with Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga and Claire Julien rounding out the group). They party and gossip, obsessed with fame, fashion and Facebook, as many teens are. Rebecca casually convinces her friends to rob celebrities' homes, using social media as a tool to detect when A and B-list celebrities are away.
There has never been a better depiction of "Me" Generation youths than as seen in The Bling Ring. Raised to get what they want and nothing less, these teens also feel entitled to their spoils. They drift through their existence without a care in the world for others, or the consequences of their actions.
There are so many interesting layers here at play. On one hand, it shows young people in their environment, acting how young people act. The celebrities they steal from on the other hand - people like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan - have so many material possessions that they can't even detect that their stuff has been stolen. That speaks volumes about not only the fame-obsessed but the famous themselves.
When one girl drinks and drives and gets in a bad accident, she brags about it the next day at school. When the detective tells the girls that he has spoken to all of the celebrity victims, the response is eagerness, to hear what Linday Lohan had to say.
As clueless as these kids are, they also possess a brilliance for manipulation. To their parents, or to the authorities, they know exactly what to say...exactly what needs to be heard. It's eye-opening, to say the least, to see how cold and calculating people can be.
Of course, not all teenagers break into the homes of celebrities. But on some level, we all are obsessed with fame and perhaps more than any other time in our history, we're obsessed with ourselves. The Bling Ring is scary because in these extremists, we see ourselves.
The parents of these kids are present and distant at the same time. They force their kids to do school work and they sit down for family dinner, but mom doesn't ask too many questions when she sees her daughter has "bought" a new dress, never wondering where she got the money for such a thing. Mom also dishes out Adderall as if it were aspirin.
I've never simultaneously loved a movie and despised its characters and ideas as much as I did with this film. This is clearly Sofia Coppola's most effective film to date, capturing a grim reality of modern American culture without ever hammering home a message. It's inevitable, perhaps, that as each generation tries to provide more for their children than what they had, eventually a generation would come along that feels that it has all it needs. Complacent, why worry about the future when the here and now provides you with everything you could ever dream of?
The Bling Ring is the film that Spring Breakers - released earlier this year - wanted to be. It's compelling in how shocking and disconnected the characters are with what you and I might refer to as "reality." But they are living in a different reality, a reality that has only recently emerged in our country. In a world where reality stars prevail, where a YouTube video could bring you fame, and where committing a crime may get you the exposure you've always wanted, fame is no longer something you aspire for: It's something you are owed.
On several different levels, The Bling Ring may be the most important film of the year, if you can look past the name brand bling it drapes itself in. Underneath all of that, there is a dangerous message waiting, one that all generations should be able to pull from.
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