The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola's Latest Designer Dud
It's the stuff of Hollywood's increasingly ouroboric wet dreams. The so-called Bling Ring—a brash group of affluent SoCal teenagers who pinched upwards of $3 million in cash, clothes, and jewelry from the homes of a half-dozen celebrities—would eventually take up column space on the very gossip sites they used to target their victims. They also provide an unsurprisingly seductive premise for director Sofia Coppola, whose filmography is three-quarters full of navel-gazey meditations on the emptiness of celebrity (and whose pedigree and closet might have very well made her one of the Bling Ring's targets). Throw in a handful of beautiful, unknown teen actors, a perfectly over-the-top Emma Watson, and a cameo from at least one real-life victim (Paris Hilton), and you've got a recipe for the sort of self-satisfied, lite-postmodern exposition-fest that Hollywood seems so good at these days. So what went wrong with The Bling Ring?
With its monotonous succession of nightclubs, elegantly overexposed housing developments, and fancy closets, The Bling Ring is a disappointingly unambitious retelling of the crimes—a beautifully mundane account of the facts, delivered without any meaningful commentary. Though they're presented with no shortage of contempt, these characters are neither villains nor victims of society—they simply are. As Coppola's camera lingers over her protagonists' vanity and self-infatuation, it's clear she's fascinated by the motivations of their real-life counterparts—and, presumably, with the sociological implications of their crimes. Problem is, Coppola never manages to translate that fascination into something greater than a sumptuously composed episode of TMZ. Which isn't to suggest that The Bling Ring need be some heavy-handed indictment of celebrity culture, or millennials, or class resentment, or whatever—it would have been just as satisfying as an exhilarating crime caper, or even as hollow, hedonistic eye candy à la Marie Antoinette. The real drag about The Bling Ring is that it's neither fun nor thoughtful—it's totally ambivalent.