Reply to "MOVIES: What are you watching?"

The Bling Ring

Oh, where even to begin? First let me say this. The review meter on Rotten Tomatoes is hovering around 60% -- and I don't understand that. Usually if I really like a movie I can still gauge with fair accuracy if others will as well. Similarly if I don't like a movie I can generally tell if it is just me or if it is a broader thing. I found The Bling Ring to be very good; and while I can certainly understand a "just above average" rating from any particular reviewer, it is hard for me to see 6/10 (3/5) as not being the worst a reviewer could say.

For those that don't know, this is Sofia Coppola's new movie about a bunch of economically comfortable, middle class, teenagers who decide to rob from celebrities -- pretty much just to have fun. The movie is closely based on actual events of just a few years ago.

What I found frustrating and compelling about the movie was how small these teens' lives were. "Let's get the f--k out of here" is said about 8 times in the movie... but that is the only way a 16/17 year old boy is going to talk. Sofia doesn't give context outside of the celebrity world, so you are watching realizing this is all the kids know.

Sofia also doesn't moralize or try to explain. At all. There are only two examples of even coming close. In one scene where the teenage banditos are in Paris Hilton's house you see Paris' face on everything -- including her furniture. Which could be intentional social commentary on the vacuousness of celebrity culture... but they actually shot in Paris' house and that is her actual furniture and decoration. The other way -- and this is real, too -- is that Nicki's (in real life, Alexis Neiers') mom home schools her and Sam (in real life, Tess Taylor) in "The Secret" with vision boards, etc. The only possible explanatory literary license there is when 16/17 year old Nicki comes home at 4am on a school night without calling, the next morning her mom says, "well, try to do better next time, ok?" and that is it.

At once I was engaged in the thrill of the chase but also horrified at how far these kids could go without anyone stopping to realize it was wrong. Without moralizing there is an emptiness left at the end of the movie. Without giving broader context or moral framework, you're left with, "ok. This happened. And....?" But I think that is kinda the point. And I didn't feel bad about it -- it was for the audience to decide.

Sofia cast the movie in odd ways. A mixture of true unknowns (the two biggest leads) two teens with strong (in one case exceptionally strong) industry connections (leads numbers 4 and 5) and then Emma Watson as the third lead. Emma's SoCal (Alexis - specific) accent was spot on. There were one or two times in the movie you could tell she was thinking about her accent, but apart from that she was excellent. The problem with her being excellent, though, is that she blew everyone else off the screen and she was not the lead. There were almost times when it felt awkward to watch the non lead eat up the screen in comparison to the leads in the way she was doing. The only person who kept up with her was Leslie Mann, playing her mom, who was in the movie for just a few brief scenes. The other four main robbers were all fine. Good, even; but even the oscar-winner's daughter was only 16/17 when filming and this was her first acting job apart from being essentially an extra in The Dark Knight Rises -- so she was only as good as you could expect her to be. Gavin Rossdale was good in his small role.

Overall, this certainly wasn't a masterpiece. But it is probably my second favorite of Sofia's movies. (Though, yes, way, way, WAY behind Lost in Translation.) Worthy of checking out. And also, I found it pretty "fun".