Movie Marathon #9: The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring marks Sofia Coppola’s fifth venture into feature film territory, her first since the 2010 drama Somewhere. Starring Emma Watson, Katie Chang and Taissa Farmiga as members of the titular crime gang, the film draws from the true story of a privileged group of teenagers in California who routinely burgled celebrities to collect trophies and trinkets from their homes-victims included Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom, with some scenes shot inside Hilton’s own residence.

The film is filled with Coppola’s trademark ennui-the beautiful cinematography is chock-full of long, languid shots, and that very specific sense of disaffection and mild, middle-class dissatisfaction. Coppola’s ability to capture the frustration and discontent of beautiful young women-as she displayed in her first feature, The Virgin Suicides, and later in Lost in Translation-is brought to the forefront in a very different way in The Bling Ring, with a bunch of pretty young things and their social restlessness captured to a tee. One of Coppola’s key skills is her ability to remove herself from the action, acting only as a passive observer to the increasingly mad events taking place around her-she refuses at any point to become involved in the world of the girls or their high-profile victims. Instead, she focuses on what has driven these privileged young women, on the cusp of adulthood, to steal pointless knick-knacks from their idols; less a physical or psychological need to burgle, but rather for the pseudo-fame that came from the news coverage and social interest in the case.

Kudos has to go to the actresses who inhabit the challenging roles with ease. Finding young actresses who can convincingly portray, well, anything, really, is a challenge, but Coppola hit the jackpot with the lead five. Emma Watson, in the process of throwing of the shackles of her rise to fame through Harry Potter, rightly received buckets of critical praise for her performance as the leader of the group.

However, perhaps too much emphasis was put on her character at the expense of any sort of reasonable characterisation of the other four girls, as they begin to meld together with little defining characteristics. That said, this is a film about teenagers occupying the height of vapidity; the blank stares, mundane dialogue and overwhelming sense of senselessness, though sometimes seeming put in place just to emphasise how crushingly shallow these women are, are required to truly put across how crushingly shallow these women really, truly, and utterly are.