Cannes 2013: Sofia Coppola's 'The Bling Ring' is Empty Entertainment
by Alex Billington
May 16, 2013
This seems to be the year of the exaggerated "American dream" and excess along with it being highlighted in films. Besides Spring Breakers and Pain & Gain, one of the other exposes on excess is the latest film from Sofia Coppola, titled The Bling Ring. I've been anticipating this ever since the first trailers and caught the first premiere of it at the Cannes Film Festival. Unlike Spring Breakers, the film doesn't have any depth, or nuance, or dark humor, it's nothing but a hollow, lightweight portrayal of excess and a group of vacuous teens obsessed with it. Yea, there's fun underage larceny going on but that's about it. There's not much else.
The story in Bling Ring is based on real events from a few years ago, about a group of lavish, shallow teens obsessed with celebrities who lackadaisically decide to rob their houses when they're out of town. Alas, that's all that we really get to see, there's not much exploration of setup or their motivation besides their desire for excess. The film is actually focused on the sole male member in the crew, Marc, played by Israel Broussard, who gives some commentary but by the end of the film literally explains in one sentence during a "police interview" the entire message of the film - that our culture is obsessed with excess. With films like Spring Breakers, it's obvious this can be made into some amusing commentary, but that's not the case here.
My problem with the movie lies in the fact that all of the characters were as vapid and careless as everyone they were robbing. And worse than that, the performances from just about everyone in the film were amateur. Even Emma Watson gave a performance that felt empty, cliched and totally grating. Then again, she may have just been playing those kind of celebrity-obsessed teens perfectly. But that's why I couldn't stand them. There's nothing to it besides these boring folks stealing from boring celebrities. There's never any lessons learned, there's never any exploration into the desires of excess and the outcomes, it's pretty much only a portrayal of the events through Coppola's lens. I much prefer her past work, even Somewhere.
As much as I was hoping for some redeeming values, something to appreciate about the film, there wasn't much. I couldn't even stand Emma Watson for more than 15 minutes. Even the soundtrack is lackluster and overly-obvious, with tracks like "Super Rich Kids" (the closing credit song). It's almost as if Sofia Coppola doesn't actually understand this culture of excess, as if she's floating in the space inbetween celebrity status and the obsessed teens, and could only capture its existence but not much more. As in, she made a movie about "Super Rich Kids" obsessed with stealing items from other "Super Rich Kids". It even skips the legal details and break-in specifics, and jumps to a boring conclusion at the end. Watch Spring Breakers instead.
Alex's Cannes Rating: 3 out of 10