If it weren’t for the endless parade of cinematic apocalypses, 2013 at the movies might go down as The Year of Vapid Materialism Gone Criminal. Already we’ve seen Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain exploring the dark side of hedonistic entitlement; now Sofia Coppola brings us the fact-based story of The Bling Ring, throwing out similar content without actually finding a point of view.
The names have been changed, but Coppola retains the basics of the Vanity Fair article that explored a group of Southern California teens—Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Emma Watson) and friends—who discover that it’s surprisingly easy to keep tabs on when the fashionista celebrities they worship are away from home. And when the celebs are away, that’s the perfect time for Rebecca and company to break into the houses and steal jewelry, cash and plenty of expensive clothes.
Coppola appears to take a purely anthropological interest in these kids’ and their crime spree. One break-in follows another in more or less the same manner, the thieves gasping over the designer dresses, shoes and purses before they high-tail it and show off their loot on Facebook. The one exception, in which Coppola shoots a break-in in a single take from a distance, makes terrific use of a largely glass building emphasizing the in-plain-sight brazenness of the crimes. Otherwise, it’s hard to grasp why we see this particular number of home invasions, and not one more, or one fewer.
It’s not automatically a deal-breaker that Coppola doesn’t shake a moralizing finger, or attempt quick psychoanalysis of her characters’ motivations. But the few jokes at the expense of their lack of self-awareness clang up against a generally affectless chronicling of their bad behavior. There has to be a way besides superficiality to capture superficiality.
THE BLING RING
Katie Chang, Israel Broussard. Emma Watson