The Bling Ring (2013)

*. The Bling Ring was a name given to a bunch of young people who broke into celebrity homes in the suburbs of Los Angeles in 2008-2009. I feel I have to begin by mentioning this because ten years after their crime spree, a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales that inspired both a TV movie in 2011 and this film in 2013, and a book-length treatment by Sales that came out the same year, I imagine the actual events that started the ball rolling have now been forgotten. The Ring’s fifteen minutes were up a long time ago.
*. One may wonder, as I did, why a dramatic film (much less two) was necessary. Of course anything linking crime and celebrity will have an audience, so instead of necessary perhaps a better question would be who would find such a story attractive. What, for example, would attract Sofia Coppola to such a project?
*. Item: During the “Making of” featurette included with the DVD production designer Anne Ross has this to say about her reaction when Coppola told her that she was keen on doing it: “I was completely uninterested and I couldn’t believe she wanted to spend all this time living in this world, because it was so repellent to me, and it was repellent to her too so I was very confused about it.”
*. I feel the same way. I enjoyed Sales’ book, but I didn’t think a movie was necessary. What would be the purpose? Satire? But the funniest parts in the movie are things that the gang actually said and did and all the best lines are verbatim quotes. And in any event you can’t satirize this sort of behaviour. It’s self-satirizing.
*. I also wonder what the purpose was in changing all the names. No doubt some legal consideration was involved, but since the individuals represented are easily identifiable anyway I don’t know what the problem might have been. I mean, any resemblance to persons living or dead was not only not coincidental but purposive and precise.
*. One of Mark Kermode’s most violent takedowns on his review channel is of the film Entourage. What he seemed to hate the most about it was the message that everyone in the audience would like to emulate the bros in the movie. That’s not Coppola’s point here, but it is an opinion we hear expressed by Marc, who says that celebrities like Paris Hilton live “the lifestyle everybody wants.” That seems to me to be a litmus test for movies like this. Perhaps not so much whether you would want to live this sort of life, but can you even relate to someone who would?
*. Put another way, just how offended are you by these people? Kermode thought Larry Clark or Harmony Korine would have made the same film in a nastier fashion, and he thinks that would have been a bad thing. On the other hand he can’t find much to praise in Coppola’s “terribly lightweight and terribly affectless” portrayal of a world that is equally vacuous. Ross says she found the Ring repellent, but Kermode found a “kind of engaging sympathy” in their portrayal.
*. Saying that I really don’t care much either way may be a cop out, but it’s how I felt. Fifteen minutes in (I looked at the clock) I wrote a note to myself asking “Why is this movie so dull?” Was Coppola really that interested in the story? It doesn’t seem to have inspired her. Anyone could have made this movie, and probably already had.
*. After reading the book I wondered if the gang members were really as stupid as they seemed to be or if they were just acting stupid. They did think they were reality TV stars, after all (and in the case of a couple of them they actually were). Where Coppola’s film falls down, I feel, is that she gets no closer to answering this question. We just never get the sense of the characters as having any depth or inner life, which makes it impossible to care about them. It seems to me that a dramatic film would allow a director the opportunity to be more creative or personal or suggestive in this regard, but we remain in the land of surfaces and the superficial.
*. Where are they now? Do you even care who they were then?


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