“The Bling Ring” focuses on flashiness


A 24 Films

Taissa Farmiga, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Katie Chang and Claire Julien (left to right) star in "The Bling Ring."

Alex Williams

The culture of celebrity worship has been parodied, lampooned, and satirized in endless films, but, despite its real-life inspiration, Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring" is discouragingly one-note, far more interested in glamorizing the exploits of its titular Hollywood Hills burglars than the consequences of their actions. "The Bling Ring" is a fashion slideshow first, a celebration of excess second and a true crime story dead last.

The film moves quickly, establishing Marc (Israel Broussard) as the awkward new kid in a school for misguided Los Angeles teens and Rebecca (Katie Chang) as the glamorous, friendly devil on his shoulder. Rebecca pressures Mark and their friends into committing a series of crimes, progressing from raiding unlocked cars to Paris Hilton’s closet, and as the stolen goods and designer labels pile up, their audacity and notoriety only get bigger.

There are moments of excellence in “The Bling Ring,” and Sofia Coppola brings a remarkable, propulsive energy to her story of teens trying a bit too hard to emulate their celebrity role models. Large swathes of the film revel in the glamour of homes the group robs, and it’s easy to be swept away in the cotton-candy charisma of the incredible wardrobes and pop-heavy soundtrack Coppola cultivates. However, after the fourth or fifth robbery, “The Bling Ring” becomes afflicted with the same vapid emptiness that it attempts to condemn through its characters’ actions.

“The Bling Ring” doesn’t understand its characters so much as it observes them, and while there aren’t any weak links in the film’s ensemble of young and beautiful kleptomaniacs, there’s also not enough meat on the barebones script for any of them to make much of an impression. Emma Watson’s performance as Nicki, a group member who immediately turns on her friends once things go south, is the best in the bunch, and Watson deadpans her way through, playing this haughty whirlwind of bad decisions and flawed rationalizations with visible glee. However, even Watson is ultimately underserved by Coppola’s script, and while she manages to make a character with nothing going on beneath the surface interesting, the rest of the cast is mostly stranded.

Perhaps the most crippling decision Coppola makes in “The Bling Ring” is her obvious disinterest in the story’s conclusion. What should have been the most dramatic part of the film comes off as clunky and obvious, and Coppola wraps things up far too hastily. The entire film builds to Rebecca and Co. getting their comeuppance, but after all of the time spent drooling over beautiful outfits and high heels, Coppola dashes through the finale, making her requisite thematic points with neon-subtle lines of dialogue.

“The Bling Ring” is a quintessential summer film, a lightweight romp with little on its mind but glitz and glamour. Despite some repetitiveness, its brisk 90-minute runtime keeps it from dragging too long, but its utter lack of dramatic ambition prevents it from ever rising above pure entertainment that evaporates the moment the credits roll. While “The Bling Ring” could have been a cutting insight into celebrity culture, Sofia Coppola embraces the carefree attitude of her characters a bit too enthusiastically, resulting in a thematically confused showcase of incredible clothes and not much else.

Director: Sofia Coppola
Genre: Comedy
Runtime: 90 minutes