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Movie Review of The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring is a movie that caught my eye recently. I always enjoy seeing films from female directors since they are still few in number compared to their male counterparts. Tonight I finally got a chance to go and see it.
My overall impression is that it's worth seeing, but it isn't quite the cult classic I was hoping it would be, for reasons I'll get into. If you aren't familiar with the film, it's based on a true story that received some media attention in 2009. A group of mostly reasonably well-off teenagers began breaking into celebrity homes around Hollywood Hills.
These included the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox and Orlando Bloom as well as others. While they were there they gathered up mementos including dresses, shoes, jewelry, watches, panties, and even a gun. The total cost of the theft was estimated to be around $3,000,000.
The big name attached to The Bling Ring is Emma Watson. It's probably a good career move for Emma, who has created a fashionable image for herself, leaving her role as Hermione Granger behind. However, she being the most well-known spokesperson for the movie, I was surprised her role was not as prominent as I had thought it would be. If she had been given more screen time this would have been a good chance for her to show off her acting skills. Her Hollywood accent for the film is wonderful.
Newcomer Katie Chang plays the role of Rebecca, the group's ringleader. She corrupts the sweet, baby-faced, and insecure Marc, played by Israel Broussard. The entire group shares a love of fashion and celebrity culture.
The film was directed by Sofia Coppola, who also directed Marie Antionette and The Virgin Suicides. (Kirsten Dunst, who starred in both of these movies, makes a brief appearance in a nightclub for this film.) I was expecting a fun yet ultimately sad teen girl movie like Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen or Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways and that's mostly what I got.
What I felt the film was lacking was some character development. I don't feel I learned much more about these people than what I could have gotten from watching and reading news clips about the true story. It was like an extended crime dramatization.
What I would have liked to see instead was the story from Rebecca or Nicki's point of view instead of Marc's since the movie has more appeal to a female audience anyways. I would have liked to see more of who these characters were in their day to day life before jumping into the robberies.
Instead what we see is an overview of perhaps too many characters. In the words of Charlaine Harris, author of the True Blood series, every character should serve a purpose. While Emily, Chloe, and Rob were part of the actual events, as far as the story is concerned their presence does nothing for the narrative.
This movie is obviously for entertainment purposes, so it didn't need to adhere to facts like a documentary. Some liberties could have made the story better.
I did like the contrast between the rather empty teen rooms that reminded me of some of my friends' rooms going up versus the magical glamour of Paris Hilton's house. Interestingly, since Paris was one of those actually robbed by the real life burglars, Paris actually allowed Coppola to film these scenes inside of her actual home. Paris even makes a brief appearance at a nightclub in the beginning of the film.
As a statement about American culture, the movie definitely highlights the fact that America rewards scandal. Paris, Kim, and Lindsay owe much of their fame and success to it, and now these teenage thieves have an entire movie dedicated to their exploits.
If they had gotten away with it, one would have to admire their boldness, but of course they didn't. Surveillance footage and tip-offs led to their arrest, trial, and jail-time.
As far as the movie concerned, I think it could have achieved a cult hit status if Nicki had been the main character and the movie had showcased Emma Watson's acting, which is quite good in this film. The trailer which heavily features Nicki makes one expect that Watson has a more central role in the film. Of course they would use their big-name actress to drum up hype for the film, but the fact that she's not the main character is disappointing.
Spoiler Warning: My Two Favorite Scenes
There's a beautiful scene in the sequence where we see the girls being arrested. We see Chloe and her blonde haired mother and her father in their white-washed kitchen drenched in sunlight with their two white dogs while we hear police sirens approaching in the background.
The next most poignant scene is Marc shackled between orange-clothed prisoners looking so young and out-of-place as he waits to get on the prison bus to go to jail. Marc, who is the one who ultimately came clean to the police, unfortunately got the most brutal sentence. Although he serves the same time as Rebecca, I can't imagine a women's prison being as frightening as a men's prison.