The Bling Ring (2013)

(On Cable TV, September 2015)  I started watching The Bling Ring with fairly low expectations, pulled in by director Sofia Coppola’s name and not much else.  But as the film advanced, I felt pulled in opposite directions; fascinated by the true story told relatively faithfully by the film, and exasperated at the way it was being told.  The premise itself is a mesmerizing mix of modern technology, celebrity obsession and dumb teenage antics as a few fashion-obsessed high schoolers get the insane notion that they can just walk into celebrities’ homes and take what they want from their overfilled closet.  The amazing, never-would-have-believed-it-if-it-wasn’t-a-true-story part is… it works.  They find out Paris Hilton is out partying in a foreign country, find her house using Google, poke around the doors and windows until they find an unlocked way in (or a key under the mattress), party in her rooms, pilfer a few high-end items… and repeat the heists a few times.  They flash their new wares and piles of cash on Facebook, party on, wear designer clothes, brag a bit, get caught on video with fewer consequences than they’d expect.  It feels like a collision between two or three things that wouldn’t have existed a decade before, and there’s a bit of quasi-parental affection in the way the films look at its teenage hoodlums, who are more greedy and careless than outright evil or stupid.  There is a good kernel of interest here, and one that makes the film stick in mind even a few days later.  Unfortunately, The Bling Ring doesn’t exactly manage to do justice to its own subject.  The cinema-vérité approach get dull quickly, the over-bright bleached cinematography calls attention upon itself without having much of an effect, and worse of all the film feels very long even if it doesn’t exceed 90 minutes.  There is, granted, an aesthetic at play here that escapes me, as nice as it is to actually see the interior of Paris Hilton’s house.  While the film hints at interesting ideas and offers the potential for a deeper thematic critique (or, heck, just a deeper exploration of its characters), it feels unsubstantial, unfulfilled, even a bit too superficial in the way it approaches its subject.  Despite being light on moralism (although that segment where the police raids the protagonists’ houses is heavy enough to make parents have fits of anxiety), The Bling Ring disappoints more than it enlightens, and seems to set itself up for bad reviews by misusing the material at its source.  Perhaps a wider deviation from the real events may have helped the film feel more substantial.

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