In 2009, a group of teenagers were arrested in LA stealing more than $3 million in clothing and jewellery from celebrities including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan. They were nicknamed The Bling Ring.
Sofia Coppola first came to public attention with her 1999 film, The Virgin Suicides, a film that was incredibly well received. Lost in Translation was equally well received, but it seems that the director has been on a downward trajectory since Marie Antoinette in 2006. Sadly, The Bling Ring is not the film to rescue Coppola from her own failings.
Much of the cast of The Bling Ring is made up of relative unknowns; Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien and Taissa Farmiga make up the gang of teens, with Emma Watson thrown in for some star power. On the whole, the performances from the cast are lacklustre; Emma Watson has been improving over the years, but her only real moment to shine is at the end of the film. The rest do what they can with the empty vessel characters they are given, but no-one does particularly well; it seems that the direction on this film was lacking. All of the characters end up being cardboard cut out versions of reality; they are all vapid, vacuous and ultimately shallow.
The film is based on real events and a Vanity Fair article on the gang as they went to trial. While it is true that the Vanity Fair article is not incredibly long, Sofia Coppola appears to have been happy to focus on the visual, choreograph parties and leave the characters to fall by the wayside. It is only toward the end of the film, as the police catch up with the gang, that they finally show themselves as more than mindless party drones. One line of dialogue to explain why these kids were breaking into celebrities houses would have sufficed for motivation, but instead the audience is left to wonder whether they were greedy, foolhardy or wanted to be like their idols.
The film does look good, however there is only so many repetitive parties, stealing and shots of kids taking ‘selfies’ that the audience can take before wondering if there is anything going on underneath the surface. The running time is a neat 90 minutes, but since it seems the film has so little to say, this stretches out to feel like a lifetime. The messy pacing certainly doesn’t help this either.
In all, The Bling Ring could have been a fascinating look at the celebrity obsessed youth culture that seems to have been cultivated recently, but instead the film is bland, vapid and ultimately, has nothing to say. Without bringing one character to the fore, the audience has no-one to root for and it is hard not to hope that these brats will be caught in the end.