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The Bling Ring by Sofia Coppola

September 12, 2013

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Watching The Bling Ring by Sofia Coppola I couldn’t avoid comparing it to recent films whose directors have tackled a similar theme: the state of American youth, the state of the American dream or the state of America tout court, I am referring to Savages by Oliver Stone, Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine and Pain & Gain by Michael Bay; if you search them at film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes you’ll see that none of them has been well received by the critics but in my opinion Coppola’s effort is the only accomplished work here. Coppola manages to tell her story skipping indulgence and exploitation – unlike Korine who displays girls in bikini in a courtroom – she has a sort of cold detachment leaving at you, the viewer, to digest the facts and make an opinion about them.

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Some girls and their friend Marc (Israel Broussard) rob the homes of celebrities using the Internet to check when they are far from L.A. and to find the addresses of the houses, Coppola has based her screenplay on a Vanity Fair article reporting actual events. The kids are not rich but certainly they are not poor, the highest middle class tier I’d say, they don’t need to rob, they do it for the fun – and the scare – of it and for the opportunity – entering these huge houses – to catch a glimpse of what does it mean to be successful in life, being successful and being rich are perceived to be the only ingredients of a life worth living today, if you are not a part of it, you are a failure, then you are living a shitty life, a poor copy of the life led by the gods of our times, the celebrities. Some of the celebrities who were victims of the robberies appear into Coppola’s film and it makes sense since they belong to the same film: Paris Hilton public persona isn’t less shallow and vulgar than the kids who robbed her though the real winner here is Lindsay Lohan who ended up sharing the same cell block with one of the girls who had robbed her house, why Lohan was in jail? for robbery!

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The Bling Ring is hard to like, we cannot like a story like this, but it’s  a true story – had it been an original story I’d considered it written by a modern day Aristophanes – so it’s useless trying to deny its value, furthermore the cinematic treatment by Coppola is really remarkable for its somber but sober approach, though I guess that some of its goods – like the robbery shot with a camera overseeing a house with L.A. in the background – are due to the late great cinematographer Harris Savides; the overall feeling conveyed by The Bling Ring allows me to downplay a couple of hiccups, mainly the fake documentary short scenes where we see Marc interviewed by a therapist; as for the the acting it is functional to Coppola’s direction who barely avoids making a caricature of Laurie (Leslie Mann) – the mother of two of the girls involved in the robberies. Social observation was not alien to Sofia Coppola’s previous films, but The Bling Ring is her first feature where it comes to the fore as the heart and soul of her work.

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