Monday, 29 July 2013

NZIFF Review - The Bling Ring

NZIFF Review - The Bling Ring

The latest movie from Sofia Coppola takes a look at the vapid way our lives have become so obsessed and warped with celebrity and all within it.

And it's a shocking look at how far some will go to be a part of that lifestyle.

When Marc (Israel Broussard) moves to a new school, he falls in with Katie Chang's Rebecca on the first day. Rebecca seduces him with her lifestyle - of breaking into homes, taking what she wants and helping herself due to a self imposed sense of self-entitlement.

Soon, Marc's aiding and abetting in these crimes, fuelling Rebecca's need to be part of the celeb lifestyle. He finds her the homes of the rich and famous that she wants to be part of, and they simply head there, break in and wallow in the opulence and take mementoes home of their crimes. It's the ultimate in the Steal Their Style mentality - and it's utterly addictive for this duo.

They're joined in their escapades by Emma Watson's Nicky, her friend Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julian) who all become addicted to this way of life after Marc and Rebecca take them to Paris Hilton's home repeatedly.

But eventually, the greed of the young and the seduction of the crime become too much for the group and their spree starts to become noticed by the Hollywooderati and the Bling Ring is feeling the pressure.

The Bling Ring movie is apparently based on real events and on a Vanity Fair article - and is in some ways, a shocking expose of how obsessed we've become with the celebrity lifestyle, fuelled by weekly magazines of what they're wearing, daily news items on who's dating who and who's wearing what and an indictment of the want it now attitude of some who'd rather take it than earn it.

It's a hollow, shallow and superficial piece which is stylishly put together - from shots of the group taking endless selfies in the clubs, surrounded by bling, booze and money and transposed to Facebook,The Bling Ring is a horrifying look at how some have no identity except through the lives of others.

When Rebecca's finally caught and she's told that some of their victims have been spoken to by the police, her one overburning desire is to know what Lindsay said because her obsession is so deep. The attitude of these youngsters is appalling and Coppola does little to validate them or make them empathetic as the film plays out and their coked up sprees continue a plenty. So it's hard to care for them as the police close in and their lifestyles are brought to an end.

Watson and Leslie Mann are perhaps the stand outs of the film; Mann, whose mother and home schooling is based on the concept of The Secret is a blast - a blank canvas of motherhood whose daily prayer and mantra is as superficial as her smile - and whose teachings make her charges wonder what characteristics Angelina Jolie embodies; Watson is an empty and vapid teen whose statements as bland as anything and yet they show a canny sense of using buzzwords and phrases without actually saying anything profound - for example - "I'm a firm believer in karma; I wanna lead a country one day. For all I know." There's no conviction in these teens except to live vicariously through the theft of their victims.

From yellow lurid neon opening titles to a blasting punk soundtrack, Coppola's put together something which is as impressive as it is empty; an indictment of the Facebook generation who revel in empty lives to fulfill their own and who have everything going for them but don't recognise it.

The Bling Ring is visually impressive, shatteringly hollow and of the now. It's worrying that it's based on real events and it's to be hoped that Coppola's indifference to her subjects and occasional glorification of their opulence desiring lifestyle will be taken lightly - because based on the audience I was with, the majority of them were on their smartphones the moment the film was ending, perhaps perpetuating a cycle of celebrity cult worship that it's really time to break.

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