Thursday, July 4, 2013

Warning: Real Life Approaching

As a culture, we have arguably gone a little bit crazy for Hollywood and celebrities. Many of the top magazines sold around the country are US Weekly, People and Star, titles that make their living by capitalizing on this desire for information on the rich and famous and focusing on such things as whom they are currently romancing and how they dress. It's not exactly important information, but much of our society just can't seem to get enough of it. This isn't meant to disparage those of you who DO read these periodicals; this is simply my personal opinion. I mean, I'm a FILM reviewer. While I don't talk about the latest fashions, I still bring attention to celebrities' movies on a regular basis. Speaking of film, the best example of celebrity worship getting out of control might be The Bling Ring, the latest movie by director Sofia Coppola. It tells the true story of a group of young Californians whose desire to be closer to the lifestyles they desired became an obsession that saw them break into the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson and more, stealing to their heart's content. Between 2008 and 2009, these kids stole upwards of $3 million in cash and belongings before they were arrested. If nothing else, it's the perfect example for how this kind of behavior can get completely and utterly out of hand.
Emma Watson's going all Bonnie and Clyde on us.
The kids in Coppola's latest motion picture are definitely a little messed up. Marc (Israel Broussard) is a loner who has never been very popular and got kicked out of his last school for too many absences. Rebecca (Katie Chang) is a minor criminal who gets off on breaking and entering and theft. Chloe (Claire Julien) talks "gangsta" and gets a little wild. And Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) are home-schooled best friends who take Adderall regularly and whose education is based entirely on Rhonda Byrne's Laws of Attraction book "The Secret". So getting past the part where none of these kids really had a chance, their descent into theft is both glitzy enough to shine on the big screen and dark enough to make for a decent character study of their various issues. Coppola cast mainly unknowns for her leads, and the real surprise is not how great Emma Watson is (because seriously, she's fricking Emma Watson), but the quality of performances from the rest of the young cast. Though Watson is undoubtedly the movie's biggest star, the film belongs to Broussard and Chang, who are talented young actors given genuine moments to stand out and succeed in a variety of ways. The cast is rounded out by Leslie Mann (as Nicki's mother) and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale to fill the film's adult quota, but this film definitely belongs to the kids, and they make the most of their opportunities.
We're in a movie taking pictures of ourselves! Wild!
The acting is aided by a director in Coppola who has a flair for cinematics. While the "Girls Gone Wild" indie concept has already been adequately handled by March's Spring Breakers, Coppola is by far a better director than Korine, using music and visual flair to accentuate her specific narrative style, rather than try to hide her movie's inadequacies. It's a talent that only the best - not necessarily most successful, but best - directors possess. In The Bling Ring, Coppola manages to infuse every scene - no matter how inconsequential - with an artistry that instantly makes everything BETTER, like a cure-all that can magically heal all the film's wounds.
I'm sorry... what was I saying?
Unfortunately, that cure-all is, in reality, simply a band-aid. While the acting is excellent and the atmosphere Coppola adds does vastly improve things, there's just not all that much story going on here. There are whole scenes which have little to do with moving the story forward (including a shot from Marc's computer camera of him dancing around), and are just filler, adding absolutely nothing of value. There are a few inspired scenes (Marc and Rebecca robbing Audrina Patridge's home as seen from a distance outside), but most of the "shopping" bits - as they're called - aren't nearly as fun or original as they ought to be. In fact, they feel suspiciously like the worst fashion-centric moments of Sex and the City, when all the ladies can talk about are Gucci and Jimmy Choo's. Interaction between characters is great. Interaction between characters and articles of clothing, not so much.
Direct quote here: "I want to lead a country one day, for all I know."
When there's a story to follow and the actors get to play up the chronic naivete of their generation, The Bling Ring is at its trashy, dumpster-diving best. This is not a movie that condones celebrity worship; in fact, it does its best to show just how bad that behavior has gotten in some parts of our society. But unfortunately there's just not a whole lot of meat on those bones, even for a film that barely clocks in at an hour and a half. Coppola does her absolute best, and I doubt that this could have been better in anybody else's hands. But similarly to Spring Breakers, recommending that somebody see The Bling Ring on the big screen is not a task I would be up to taking. Which is a shame, because there are genuinely strong scenes and evocative moments that absolutely make it worth a rental option. Watson is a star who is still rising, but even her excellent performance can't convince me to convince you that it's worth your time right now.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...