Monday, July 1, 2013

The Bling Ring (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Bling Ring

The iconoclastic Sophia Coppola (Marie Antoinette, Lost in Translation) undertakes a tabloid exposé  in "The Bling Ring". It tells the story of teens who burglarize celebrity houses in and around Hollywood Hills. The group of  kids violated several exclusive homes, notably the residences of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and reality star Audrina Patridge. In 2008, for roughly a year, the band stole jewelry, clothes and shoes totaling some three million dollars. The film is based on an actual Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales.

The film centers on ringleader Rachel Lee (here fictionalized as Rebecca Ahn and played by Katie Chang) and Nick Prugo (named Marc Hall and portrayed by Israel Broussard).

Marc is portrayed as pie faced and pasty with not much spunk. Rebecca is narcissistic and fame-obsessed. The  laconic and glum kids meet at a party and begin to steal from unlocked cars as if to create spontaneity. They invariably find wads of cash in expensive wallets and go on shopping sprees.

The two kids have parents that are spaced out and monotone. Marc's dad shuffles around like a living statue while  we hardly see Rebecca's mother. Browsing the net, they get the idea that the home of Paris Hilton would be easy to access.

The key is under the mat.

What follows is a mind-boggling visual catalogue of Hilton's Liberace-like  home in the manner of  prose by Bret Easton Ellis. There are huge walk-in  closets of sequined and lame dresses and infinite rows of shoes stacked like Jaguar automobiles. Diamond bracelets cover every surface like sand or cocaine left for dust by an amnesiac billionaire.

They invade her house repeatedly and lounge about before exiting. The pair begin to brag about their swag, recruiting their friends who are equally catty, selfish and near-sociopathic.

Emma Watson (Harry Potter) appears as a mirror-image of Rebecca, fetishizing Lindsay Lohan's irresponsibility, style, her lipgloss and her see-thru dresses.

 Director Coppola does a fine job in illustrating the vacuity of juvenile crime under the glare of celebrity culture. The film is essentially a phosphorescent montage of break-ins with intermissions of cocaine trails that curl across the screen like bejeweled but depressed snakes.

Leslie Mann delivers well as a Good & Plenty-toned Stepford mom who is brainwashed by Rhonda Byrne's 'The Secret' self help book. Mann's scenes almost reach a John Waters' style of fun and glibness and they uncover some of the film's irreverence.

Perhaps the best line, though, belongs to  Emma Watson. When told that the FBI questioned the victims, her character asks excitedly  "What did Lindsay say?"

"The Bling Ring" withholds judgement or reasons for the juvenile crimes. It is possible that Coppola meant to show these episodes as a space capsule of superficiality.

But many will simply huff and conclude "What a bunch of brats."

The film's solipsistic tone and subject (with diamonds like so many ice-cubes on a tray handled by these nonchalant doe-eyed children) emits that response.

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