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The Bling Ring – Sofia Coppola A waste of space movie about a waste of space lifestyle



The Bling Ring – Sofia Coppola

A rarity: a movie without a single genuine emotion throughout its full 90 minutes. The unspeakable ersatz world of celebrity slavishly but pathetically emulated by a bunch of young people descending like a plague of designer-brand locusts to strip celebrity homes of every famous named product they can find.

This bunch of faux-chic chums return again and again to the property occupied by Paris Hilton: who is too stupid not to leave a key under her doormat; too dumb not to know that she’s been serially burgled; and too wealthy to care. Hilton, who apparently co-operated with Coppola on the movie is the paradigm exemplar of the famous-for-being-famous ‘celebrity’ with no discernible talent I guess Coppola wants us to focus on. To wonder what Hilton thought the film was about is an oxymoron – with the emphasis on the last two syllables.

Bling is based on a true story of some half-assed Hollywood burglaries so casually and witlessly perpetrated that one wonders how the LAPD didn’t round the culprits up long before their 4th return to La Hilton Palace.

If this movie was worth making, and I rather think it wasn’t, it needs far more than Coppola’s characteristic detached, cool, non-judgmental style. For once knowing irony just won’t do. There is something unworthy about being invited to be faintly amused at watching corrupted narcissistic young people throw away their youth and their futures out of boredom and a delusional vapid self-identity. Coppola’s film is as weak and frustrating as the feckless, utterly ineffectual parents of her main protagonists. The film, like these hapless, useless adults, just looks on helplessly, secretly a little fascinated and in effect says “what can we do?”. Plenty babe. Plenty.

I get that Coppola is inviting us to observe the implacable materialism of this otherwise totally unreal world but if these relatively trivial events in a dangerous world are worth examining then for God’s sake say something; have an artistic purpose. Not didactic or preachy but a point of view, an artistic perspective. Her film is like someone who sees a car crash with injured people who picks up a camera instead of a bandage and proceeds to film the pretty architectural shapes of crumpled metal carefully avoiding showing the reality of what that metal has done to the human beings within it.

As ever nowadays Bling is technically accomplished with some excellent performances: from the engaging Israel Broussard as Marc, the lone, loner male more at home with girls and handbags than the stereotypical sweaty jockstrap ambience of what passes for American college guy culture. Katie Chang’s Rebecca is the prime agent provocateur without a recognisable ethical thought or moral value to trouble her pretty head. When the police swoop Rebecca is happy to lie and deceive in any way she can to escape any responsibility. Even the concepts of friendship or loyalty are junked in favour of self-preservation.

Coppola unworthily exploits very well the present slightly creepy girl/woman sexual ambiguity of Emma Watson as Nicki who sees burglary and theft as experiences that have happened to her not things she has done and which she ludicrously interprets as an opportunity for personal growth. Like a demented Beauty Queen, Nicki wants to be a leader who will change the world without any idea what being a leader means or requires, or how those qualities could be brought to affect the world. She is like a self-obsessed Apprentice high on weed: just a little more likeable.

Coppola shows us a world where not only does no one know the value of anything; but worse, they don’t even know the price of anything either: the celebrities like Paris Hilton because they are so wealthy money has no meaning; and her aping young acolytes because stolen things are by definition free.

I can discern no worthwhile artistic purpose in this movie. The world and attitudes it objectively describes without mockery, anger, disapproval or satire is sadly only too obvious to us – The Pop Idol and Britain’s Got Talent franchises ‘entertain’ us with an endless sequence of wannabe celebrities most of whom can’t sing, can’t dance, in fact are bereft of any kind of talent at all. We laugh at their delusion, enjoy their unconscious humiliation. Big Brother set to off-key music.

Coppola’s film it seems to me is as unworthy as the ‘reality’ TV show genre. It will be very interesting to see how the youthful movie audience responds to its adolescent, just pubescent, embryonic Sex In The City training bra emptiness. Many will probably miss the whole point and love it just as so many young people missed the chilling underlying message of Sorkin and Fincher’s The Social Network.

Coppola is an accomplished film-maker of genuine insight and sensitivity: what she is doing wasting her time on this waste of space topic is beyond me. It’s not as if we have the slightest doubt that such delusional, self-obsessed, narcissistic young people exist: so she inadvertently celebrates the very emptiness one assumes she is trying to attack. The idea that these profoundly immature twerps are in any way representative of today’s young people is a pretty shoddy, exploitative lie.

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