Reviewed by Ian Forbes
I think Sofia Coppola may be the smartest person in the world. She’s managed to do something no one else on Earth seems to have figured out. Not Da Vinci. Not Curie. Not Einstein. Not Edison. Not even that Dyson guy, and he managed to put a cyclone in a household vacuum! Nope, Ms. Coppola has put all those geniuses to shame and managed to manipulate time itself.
How so you ask? Well, let’s take a look at the four films she made prior to the now widely released The Bling Ring: Somewhere, Marie Antoinette, Lost in Translation, and The Virgin Suicides. I want you to guess the running times for each.
Take your time. This isn’t being scored. Got it? Okay, now here’s the actual runtimes:
If you were within 30 minutes of those times, pat yourself on the back. I actually liked Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides but would have told anyone who asked they were each over two hours. And don’t get me started on her last two films, they each felt like an eternity and should be used to treat insomnia.
Well, her latest stab at filmmaking, based on the 2010 Vanity Fair article about real life teens who burglarized a number of Hollywood stars’ homes, clocks in at a brisk 90 minutes. That should zip by like a turbo-charged Ferarri on sleepy mountain roads. But using her impressive grasp of the flow of time, Coppola has managed to make it feel a good half-hour longer and even managed to put me to sleep for a brief moment (at least I think it was brief though I have no fear I missed anything).
Now, anyone who didn’t read the magazine article may also recognize this tale if you enjoy the programming of the Lifetime network, as this was made into a TV movie there in 2011. For whatever reason (media format, channel interference, rights restrictions), that film failed to include much talk of the teens’ drug use, names had been altered, and events were flat out changed – at least, if one takes the Vanity Fair article at face value (which I have no reason not to and make no claim as to doing any more research than seeing the TV movie and reading the article in question).
Still, despite all that, I’d rather re-watch the Lifetime movie ten times before even watching the trailer for Coppola’s take on events. I repeat, I’d rather wach the LIFETIME movie! At least in that, there was a reason to care for the characters; their motivations were examined to some degree. Here, as always, she’s more interested in providing some reason why spoiled brats might feel empty inside than in doing anything else.
Usually filmmakers use their first or second film to cathartically work out their demons but Sofia’s relentless. What could have been an interesting examination of the effect reality television has had on society gets lost amidst a seemingly never-ending loop of watching these kids rob a house while acting vapidly, party while being vapid, and then be vapid while boasting of their feats. There’s not even any rinsing in this cycle, it’s simply repeat, repeat, repeat … vapidly.
There are a couple of good performances, most notably Leslie Mann as the vapid mother of Emma Watson, who does a nice job of being a vapid member of the vapid Bling Ring (though her accent slips all over the place). And Katie Chung, as the ringleader of the group, appropriately acts vapidly at all times. Watching the others line up behind her like lemmings would make sense if we got any real sense of those kids prior to being a part of her inner circle but that’s not presented so vapidity simply abounds. P.S. Vapid.
About the only fun thing the movie can offer is a parade of expensive and fancy possessions for people to gawk at. This is materialism beneath the guise of cinema. It’s cheaper and far more entertaining to watch the E! Network, which you can do in the comfort of your own home.
I don’t know how many more times Coppola can try to make regular people feel sorry for the wealthy and over-privileged but she doesn’t seem to know how to attempt any other theme so I’ll regrettably look forward to another demonstration of time being slowed to a crawl in her next effort. Thankfully, she seems to take a few years in between each of her films so anyone worried she’ll figure out a way to create a singularity in the center of the Chateau Marmont can breath easy … for now.
However, since I’m sure most people find me largely cynical and negative, I’ll try to end on a positive note. If Coppola keeps climbing up my grading curve at this rate, she’ll make another movie I’d recommend sometime around 2020 (okay, so it’s passive aggressive positivity but it’s something).
The Bling Ring is rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references.
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