The Bling Ring (2013): Materialism, Idiocy and Wrong Priorities

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The entertainment industry has always capitalized on celebrities’ public image. This has led to a lot of people’s fascination with whatever their idols are up to and into without feeling the need to apply perspective from anywhere but the shrine of “stars” they admire more than themselves. This NBA player has this shoe named after him so it is definitely more valuable than the dental work you need because oral hygiene, in your opinion, is less important. This model who rose to fame for her involvement in a sex video wore this skirt at an awards festival so it is only right that you spend your allowance for the month to buy one to show your friends you can be, in your own way, a better-dressed stripper who you can leave a party with at two bottles of beer and a kiss on the ear. Admiring celebrities and wanting to be them is not necessarily an awful thing if, say, you understand that being shallow makes people look dumb and you actually want to at least replicate the moral values of those who do humanitarian efforts like Bono or Angelina Jolie. However, this is not the case for the majority, and the celebrity-obsessed culture they are a part of is what Sofia Coppola starkly presented in “The Bling Ring.”

The movie is based on the lives of affluent teenagers who stole high-end goods amounting to $ 3 million from the homes of Hollywood celebrities in California. They were able to victimize Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge and Brian Austin Green. The media called them the “Bling Ring.”

The gang is comprised of Rebecca, Marc, Nicki, Chloe, and Sam. Marc, a meek and awkward transferee from another high school, was approached by Rebecca (future ring leader) in the locker area and they quickly hit it off as they share the same interests. The latter introduced the former to the other three. With Marc attending his first party with his new pals, he didn’t feel alone and probably thought he should do everything he can to please them, especially Rebecca who he would call his best friend. She took him outside the house where they were partying at and showed him her kind of fun – opening unlocked cars and taking money, gadgets, cocaine and other valuables she can get her hands on. Marc, beguiled at first, went with the flow and that is how the robbing spree started. They easily persuaded Nicki, Sam and Chloe to tag along with their break-ins. They visited celebrity websites and targeted those who were out of town. They picked Paris because they thought she seems to be the kind of person who would leave her key under the doormat and, according to Nico (Marc in the film) in a real-life interview, she is “dumb” and “doesn’t contribute anything to the society.” (I can’t say I disagree. She was robbed six times and it took her two months to discover there’s been a break-in.)

Since these kids are well-off, what could possibly be the reason for their kleptomania?

Most of these Cali kids’ hobbies include cocaine-snorting, pill-popping, clubbing and shopping. Sofia did not really dig into the psychology of how these kids acquired such behaviors, but I felt it’s intentional. They are self-centered (except for maybe Marc who just wants to have company to keep), and geographically near the “stars” that they are crazy about.  In a generation where many celebrities share everything on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, any young-minded individual raised on bad TV will fall easily into obsessing, and their perception of what is and what should not be a necessity becomes muddled. You could say that some would want to be their idols by wanting to have the stuff they have, but in the “Bling Ring’s” case, they take it up a notch by actually stealing stuff from people they so love they want to have the exact clothes, bags, jewelry and fragrance they are wearing. In the film, it’s clear that all, with the exception of Marc, didn’t even think what they were doing is considered felony. One explanation for that is they are all spoiled rotten rich kids who don’t think taking responsibility for their actions is a big deal. I mean, in the last act when Rebecca was brought in the police station for questioning, she fangirlingly asked what Lindsay said upon learning they stole from her. It’s also not going to take deep analysis to figure out the level of IQ these kids have. They will brag about their exploits at parties, and would not even wear gloves or disguise of any kind when entering the victims’ houses.

Unsurprisingly, this being a movie from the same director who helmed “The Virgin Suicides”, “Lost in Translation” and “Marie Antoinette”, the cinematography makes images that are seemingly empty on the surface but are projected in stylish photographs filled with moody colors and an un-energetic brightness that suggest a foreboding ugly conclusion — eliciting feelings of wonder and uneasiness at the same time. The long takes that are sometimes devoid of dialogue and score felt gaps that are both enigmatic and comfortable places where you can allow yourself to take in the carefully-handled scenes that has Sofia’s signature stamped all over it. Emma Watson, whose American accent is better than the one she used in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, is hilarious as Nicki (the dumbest Valley teenager in the gang). Newcomers Katie Chang (Rebecca) and Israel Broussard (Marc) gave what you would call a decent debut for a major movie. Claire Julien (Chloe) has that X factor onscreen that I can’t quite point my finger at, and it always draws my attention whenever she enters the screen. The musical score that includes modern pop and urban tunes is suitable for the caricature that Sofia is trying to paint throughout the story. “The Bling Ring” is not so concerned of peeling out layers that will give viewers a more comprehensive look at why the characters did what they did.  Would it hurt to add dimensions to these characters? No, but Sofia’s intentions, in my opinion, don’t really want to go to that extent. It’s metaphorical in a way that the superficial is dressed up in a conspicuous style.

“Too many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce…”

The first line of Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”, played at the closing billboard, is a perfect representation of a culture in our society that is enamored by materialism, idiocy and wrong priorities. We don’t need it, we certainly can live without it, but we want to have it.

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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