Cannes Review: The Bling Ring (2013)

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The Bling Ring (2013)

Inspired by true eventsThe Bling Ring is as flashy as the in-your-face jewels it draws its title from. However, don't let the bling of it all detract from a depth that goes beyond surface aesthetics. Opening the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard, Sofia Coppola's comic drama The Bling Ring was was one of the most highly anticipated films of the festival. I speak from experience, having spent four (fucking) hours in line to guarantee my seat at the world premiere. It was worth it though to experience the film in the presence of Sofia Coppola herself and the rest of the cast.

Some will no doubt say that this latest film from Coppola is vapid, contrary to some of her previous films such as Lost in Translation or Somewhere - and even at first glance it really does seem this way with the film's combination of bored consumerist-driven teens and the glamorous L.A. backdrop. However, a closer look reveals the sad circumstances of the pursuits of a life of luxury and the celebrity gods we have come to idolize.The film essentially follows a group of highschool-aged burglars comprised of Nicki (Emma Watson), her adopted sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga), Chloe (Claire Julien), and best friends Katie (Rebecca Ahn) and Marc (Israel Broussard). The ringleader of these brats is Katie, a troubled teen from a comfortable background who, along with Marc, has a penchant for breaking into wealthy strangers' homes and taking luxury items. It's really the image of wealth that Katie constantly craves. Acting as more of a bystander, but nonetheless willing participant is Marc, a new kid at school who latches onto Katie. Together, Katie and Marc step up their reign of robbery by breaking into Paris Hilton's home, casually taking what they want as if the superrich were exempt from basic decency. Nicki, Sam and Chloe join the two in their escapades, hitting the homes of Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox among others. Based on the Vanity Fair profile on Alexis Neyers (renamed Nicki in the film), the Bling Ring's fun can't go on forever though when they are inevitably intercepted. The state of mind of the group is wonderfully summed up in a police interrogation scene with Katie, in which upon learning that the police had spoken to all the victims, wide-eyed, Katie enthusiastically asks "What did Lindsay [Lohan] say?". Even facing certain jail-time, the obsessive celebrity mindset is truly a sickness for these kids. 

From left to right: Sofia Coppola, Marc Broussard, Emma Watson, Rebecca Ahn, Taissa Farmiga and Claire Julien at the world premiere of The Bling Ring at Cannes' Un Certain Regard

The content of The Bling Ring appears vapid with its shiny coating and tabloid television centre, but in many respects, The Bling Ring is Coppola's thesis in a continued trend of films with the dominant voice being one of childlike innocence and naivety. Taking for instance., Coppola's 2006 film, Marie Antoinette - a prominent part of the title character's life is missing - that of the starving French citizens and desolate conditions. Instead of showing those circumstances, Coppola opts to show Marie Antoinette draped in gorgeous fabrics and her and her friends eating cakes and drinking champagne to excess. Coppola keeps the lavish, fantastical worlds in the forefront while keeping their seedy realities at bay. I've always seen this as a way of truly entering the minds of the films' characters. The naïveté and masked innocence of people like Marie Antoinette or the Bling Ring kids is reflected in their environments and truly what is appearing in the film and what is being left unsaid. The flashy and shallow tone of The Bling Ring is a projection of the material and celebrity obsessed minds of its characters. That being said, the film could have benefited from more thorough character profiles,  Katie's character especially. 

Casting Emma Watson in a smaller role is an interesting choice considering her massive celebrity but she did an amazing job channeling the Uggs-wearing, purse-toting, poledancing Nicki, complete with a spot-on, cringe worthy valley girl accent. Leslie Mann, who plays her delusional mother, homeschooling her daughters in the  self-help sensation, The Secret, is equally fantastic, though  let's face it, she's flawless in everything. Newcomer Rebecca Ahn and American Horror Story's Taissa Farmiga as well are beautiful presences on the screen. The soundtrack is fantastic and the cinematography is beautiful in Coppola's signature dreamy pastels making for a great film that is extraordinarily fun to watch.

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