When my friend Kimmy Kim Kim Kim suggested watching this movie (writes Catherine Feore), I agreed, knowing little other than that Sofia Coppola is the director. Since Coppola makes films that take a perspective that is usually slightly askew from the Hollywood norm, I thought it might be interesting. I had seen Lost in Translation (2003) and, while I didn’t dislike it, I wasn’t as bowled over as many critics were, and I’m afraid that The Bling Ring (2013) left me feeling the same way, namely just a bit bored and ambivalent.
In short, the film is about a group of youths who nick stuff from the houses of celebs. It opens with a burglary – to build intrigue, we are told that it is based on a ‘real story’. Like a good first line in a novel, I thought that this was the beginning of a great yarn, but though the plot has much potential, it doesn’t quite deliver. I kept waiting for nuances, insights, twists and turns, but they never arrive.
While I enjoyed the heists, I became quite bored when there were too many and they didn’t add anything to the story. In the later scenes, the filming of the robberies is put into slo-mo, and is very stylised, but to no end. At the risk of sounding like the deceased Mary Whitehouse, is the only point of this to glamorize theft? I was particularly confused by the use of a storytelling trick that usually works well, which is starting at a critical point in the present and then going back to put that present in context, before moving to the finish, as in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). The only problem is that the point is not critical – so while Coppola obviously knows a trick of her trade, she doesn’t really know how to use it. The party scenes, like the heists, also become rather repetitive.
In one scene we see one of the ‘ring’ trying to sell some stolen Rolex watches to a night club owner, and I was looking forward to a twist – would the watches have an engraving indicating that they were Orlando Bloom’s, leading to a joke? An original turn of events? But, again, there is no delivery – he is simply offered five grand for the watches. While I haven’t lived in close contact with the criminal classes, it is no surprise to me that when one is trying to hock goods that are of the clearly stolen variety one has to expect a little depreciation. Are we meant to be surprised? Surely the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, the force behind The Godfather (1971), hasn’t led such a sheltered life?
The most enjoyable part of the film was Leslie Mann’s mother Laurie’s home schooling of her wayward children and ward – her teaching method consists of an Adderall first thing (used to treat ADHD), a group new age prayer and teachings based on the best-selling self-help book The Secret, the central tenent of which is that everything is possible. The laugh-out loud moment for me was a lesson on the characteristics of Angelina Jolie, when Laurie’s cynical children suggest that Jolie’s best qualities might be a hot husband and a hot body – to the obvious disappointment of their mother, but we do see their point.
The acting is very good, but is wasted without the real narrative that the film so clearly needs. A very pleasant surprise was Emma Watson’s portrayal of Nikki Moore, a far cry from Hermione.
The film’s abiding message is that notoriety pays – the Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans of this world make or add to their fortunes through their notoriety rather than via any demonstrable talent and the ‘Bling Ring’ merely follow their idols’ example. Sure, they’ll do a little time but, following this film, I wouldn’t be surprised by a renewed interest, exclusive interviews, books and maybe some time on Oprah’s couch. The film left me feeling pretty indifferent about all of them, though not indifferent enough not to Google them when I got home.
In fact, after reading bits and pieces, I thought that this was a great story that really hasn’t been told as well as it should have been. Really just a bit bored, Tunbridge Wells.