'Bling Ring' paints compelling caricature of materialist microcosm


By Andrew McClure, Daily Arts Writer
Published July 3, 2013

You should pity A-list celebrities. Both the squeaky clean Hugh Jackmans and the freshly libidinous Miley Cyruses have gone through some real shit in their rise to renown. Think — the nonstop no privacy, the need for sex appeal and the fight to stay relevant. In the zeitgeist of hyper-speed this and dick-pic that, one element defines this age: distractions. The checkout counter rag shelf is microcosmic to something no stubborn person will ever admit: your lifestyle thieves from the rich and the famous. Now, originality ceases to exist as your “different” shoes are most certainly influenced by some slab of pop culture. This is where Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” wins — intellectuals can condemn materialism ad nauseam, but deep down, we all want the same thing: Louis Vuitton shades.

“The Bling Ring”

Playing at Rave 20

Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) likes to texture her beloved characters. As such, their rich flaws and insecurities arrive at the forefront. In “The Virgin Suicides,” a God-fearing mother brainwashes her five pubescent daughters to a fault with an overbearing moral compass. In her later Oscar-winning “Lost in Translation,” she profiles two strangers who, by appearances alone, should be happy. Not so. In any case, Coppola uncomfortably unfolds each character into almost a caricature. “The Bling Ring” and its plot drivers hop in a coupe teeming with excessive vanity, faux smiles and off-the-radar emotional IQs. What up, bitchez?

Welcome to somewhere in SoCal, comprised of people who would actually call their hometown something like “SoCal.” An opening scene with the ever-funny Leslie Mann playing mom of Nicki (Emma Watson, “Harry Potter”) nicely captures what we’re dealing with: a.m. adderall doses, obligatory pre-school prayer, and off they go, still hungover from the night before. On the other side of the tracks, we have Marc (Israel Broussard), the new kinda-closet-gay dude secretly hooked on high fashion to veil his “ugliness.” The glue of the story, Rebecca (Katie Chang, “CUTEeGRL”), befriends Marc and tucks him into her circle of friends, played by Taissa Farmiga, Claire Pfister and the aforementioned Watson. Embrace the VIP, Marc.

Things get moving when Rebecca, the gang’s rainmaker, brags about her occasional, almost-recreational car and house thievery. Someone’s out of town? Opportunity. Unlocked doors and keys under doormats allow Rebecca, and soon her entire Team Bitch, to grow benumbed to potential for consequence. They’re so good, why stop? Frequent hobby turns addiction when Google-able celeb addresses and TMZ updates formulate the best time to rob. Rebecca’s infectious mania over Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton’s goodies peaks as her most common line becomes “It’s fine,” whenever Marc suggests they roll out before LAPD skids into the gated driveway. There seems to be no principle of diminishing returns: the more, the better.

People gravitate toward and admire rainmakers. They possess the obsessiveness, cleverness and skill in moving others that a Mozart or Ben Franklin would use for innovation. Rebecca is no exception. She allures us not because of her fucked-up obsession, but rather her tenacity — the way she characterizes robbing Rachel Bilson’s house as, “I want some Chanel,” complete with a puppy-dog expression. We believe her obsession and, frankly, love her inexplicable happiness. She deftly plays the key ingredient without robbing scenes from her cohorts.

Watson and Farmiga make a pair we’ve all seen somewhere in life: the attached-at-the-hip, brutally honest, fairly daft besties. Butterfly sunglasses and henna tramp-stamps augment their inherent bitchiness, which is really just a defense mechanism for their lostness and laughability.

The polarized lensing ping-pongs back and forth between glacial tracking close-ups and amphetamine-induced Facebook photo montages. It breathes in sync with the medium-depth script.

At the end of the day, though, do these characters matter? They’re hugely important in a way Regina George in “Mean Girls” or Vanessa Hudgens in “Spring Breakers” weren’t. They’re a mirror reflection of what we millennials pride ourselves on: believing an experience didn’t happen unless the www sees it. Plus, they transparently disclose their derived style guide instead of sheepishly hiding behind a facade of independence.

We’re all sick of the tired argument that celebrities aren’t real people. Full disclosure: They’re much realer than the aimless projections of people who try to embody them. You want that life? Get your own TV show, princess.