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The Bling Ring

April 13, 2017

The Bling Ring (2013)
Director: Sofia Coppola
Actors: Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Katie Chang

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Synopsis: Feckless teens in Los Angeles go on ever more brazen celebrity burglary trawls.

Review: Sofia Coppola finally falls from her lofty perch with her first unequivocal dud after four previous films of near concentric excellence.

Over the years, many commentators have found the insularity and sameness of the Coppola “cocooned malcontents” canvas a problem. Previously, it never seemed much of an issue to me as she is not a dramaturgical filmmaker: she doesn’t engage in overt moral commentaries, and she’s more interested in sensualising the worlds of her protagonists than judging them.

With The Bling Ring, Coppola seeks to depict the brazen fecklessness of a troupe of San Fernando Valley teens who embark on an increasingly inane set of celebrity burglaries around LA. The subject matter in itself needn’t be a concern (although making interesting the inner-worlds of these vapid narcissists is pushing the boat out perhaps a bit too much). Where Coppola fails is in her usual alchemy of making those inner-lives swoonworthy and transcendent. First, she indulges in faux framing interviews with the teen felons as they look back on their indiscretions. This is a meek narrative device: very un-Coppola and very uninteresting. Second, beyond the following of the teens around their pulverisingly glib visual and aural universe (we get a lot of bourgeois co-opted house music and gangsta rap montages), there’s very little interiority or poetry. And finally, the film is a rhetorical catastrophe. Coppola plays it like it’s an ingenious satire throughout but it’s really so obvious, so relentless and so leadenly portrayed. It almost hearkens to the inadvertently lame culture clash skits at the beginning of Lost in Translation. Where that film differed is that it was rescued by the beautiful and uncanny air of transitory epiphany Coppola conjured. Here she’s unable to pull off any such magic act.

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