Sofia Coppola’s satire on celebrity obsession…
Sofia Coppola has always had an uneasy relationship with celebrity. Her last three films – Lost In Translation, Marie Antionette and Somewhere –explored the toxifying effects of fame on privileged individuals – movie stars, French aristos – but with The Bling Ring she argues that today’s celebrity culture means anyone can become famous – irrespective of merit or accomplishment.
The Bling Ring is the name given to a real-life group of teens who were convicted of stealing more than $3 million in jewellery and clothes from a string of celebrities including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Lindsey Lohan during 2008/2009. Coppola’s film – cool, elegant and brilliant – offers no particular motivation for their actions, nor does it pose any moral or sociological questions about the whydunnit. The film is surface-shallow – but only because the culture it reflects is arguably too superficial to withstand any kind of analysis. In an astonishing piece of meta-textuality that says much about the nature of the culture, Paris Hilton allowed Coppola to recreate the real crimes that took place in her own home, to shoot her film in among the haute couture labyrinth of shoe wardrobes and clothes rooms that were violated in real life.
Coppola’s Bling Ring are a bunch of narcissistic Valley girls (and one dude), possessed of righteous self-belief in their own entitlement – a modern day Heathers, perhaps. We see little of their home lives – apart from a handful of scenes featuring Leslie Mann, absolutely terrifying as one gang member’s maniacally upbeat New Age mother who feeds her children a diet of Adderall and self-improvement guff. The gang spend their days glued to celebrity websites and their nights clubbing; they have no interest in anything beyond their next Facebook status update. Emma Watson is the most prolific member of the gang’s cast, delivering a perfectly judged performance of brittle, shiny mindlessness – like, ohmygod. Arrest turns the gang into mini-celebs in their own right, with Watson’s Nicki having little time for remorse or reflection about the seriousness of her situation as she attempts to exploit her newly acquired fame by engaging an agent.
For all the superficiality of the subject, it looks beautiful – there’s plenty of Coppola’s favourite blues and greys on display. The burglaries themselves are shot almost as reportage by cinematographer Harris Savides, who died during filming. One break-in at night, high up in the Hollywood Hills, is filmed by a static camera located some distance away from and above the property, so all you see through the building’s huge glass windows is the gang going from room to room, the only sound a droning loop of feedback from composer Brian Reitzell.
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