Film Review: The Bling Ring

   The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola's languid and slight latest feature, a meditation on empty materialism, which, whilst not being quite as vapid as the characters it portrays, is hardly a weighty tome.

   Whilst Coppola has, in her body of work up until this point, successfully managed to create some deeply inspiring movies which have managed the not unimpressive task of bringing empathy and sympathy to over-privileged young female characters struggling in spite of their luxuries, she falls way short of the mark here - it's with no hesitation that I suggest the director's take on the grotesque historical figure of Marie Antoinette is entirely less beastly, and indeed infinitely more fleshed out as a human being, than the gaggle of snot nosed punks who form the lead gang in this feature.

   The titular Bling Ring takes the form of a sartorially avaricious group of Californian teen girls and their male cohort who conspire to fulfill their aspirations of acquiring the most expensive designer clothes, the type sported by their celebrity role models, by any means possible. These fame infatuated youngsters soon stumble across a winning plan - using their obsession with celebrity gossip, they are able to figure when LA's elite are out of town and time their burglaries around this. Beginning with Paris Hilton's house, an unbearably pious shrine to herself, the Bling Ring begin to invade the home's of the rich and famous; they live vicariously by spending time in their idol's shoes quite literally.

   The problem is, aside from this premise based on a real life crime spree, The Bling Ring has very little to offer the viewer in a film with no real character development or plot beyond a series of crimes and the gang's inevitable comeuppance. The usual protocol for a movie like this, a study of amoral characters falling further and deeper into a crevice, is to flesh out its characters a la Shattered Glass so we can feel some degree of sympathy at the bad choices they make and feel the emotional thud when their misdeeds catch up with them. Sadly, here, Coppola has failed entirely in giving any of the obnoxious characters anything in the way of sympathy or, for that matter, substance. It's a flat feature and the real story here is one that takes place off screen rather than on it - The Bling Ring is Coppola's first mis-step in an otherwise fascinating career. It seems here she has no idea of what she's trying to say or why. The characters actions all seem to be driven by a banal auto-pilot and if there's any commentary to be made in the film (celebrity culture? The dangers of social media?), it's not said in a coherent manner. A real shame.

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