It’s very rare when a movie is so unentertaining that it’s simply torturous to watch. Even bad movies usually have a certain charm in their awfulness. Yet, there are variants, films that are not bad or good, but fall somewhere between the cracks. Competently made and not lacking in quality, movies of this kind are the hardest to judge as pieces of entertainment, because there’s quite simply, no way to know who will or won’t be entertained.
Enter “The Bling Ring,” a semi-factual recounting by director Sophia Coppola, about a group of ne’er-do-well teens so anxious to live the good life that they resort to pilfering the homes of the rich and famous living in Hollywood. “The Bling Ring” is a beautifully shot, well-acted and at times disturbingly accurate commentary on the deification of celebrities in modern America. The scenes of theft are flawlessly filmed, conveying perfectly the size and value of these extravagant mansions with a variety of swift and coherent cuts, and one spectacular aerial shot.
Were it judged purely on its production quality, “The Bling Ring” could very well have been a strong contender at the Oscars for best direction, camera editing and cinematography. Too bad its plot is a disastrous exercise in time wasting.
After his family moves to Calabasas, California, shy teenager Marc Hall (played by Israel Broussard) transfers to Indian Hills High School, and quickly becomes friends with the rebellious Rebecca Ahn (Katie Chang). Rebecca is obsessed with fame, and in her desire to live a life of luxury, and Marc’s desire to have friends, he and Rebecca begin a series of burglaries. Their antics soon catch the attention of their friends, and their two-person team grows to five.
For weeks, Marc and Rebecca, along with their friends Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien), spend their nights looting celebrity homes, visiting night clubs and partying, all the while buying extravagant clothing (or just stealing it from celebrities), doing drugs and driving without licenses, while high on drugs.
It doesn’t take long for the word to get around town, and the nation, and soon, the five are being referred to as the “Bling Ring,” so named for their celebrity burglaries.
It is clear that “The Bling Ring” aims to be a dark commentary on American obsession with celebrity culture. The young cast of characters is based on the lives of the real group of young thieves that committed a series of similar robberies on Hollywood homes. The film does an admirable job of drawing attention to modern society’s “fame no matter the cost” message, and the dangers that such a message can pose to children and young-adults, but it does it so well, that the movie is physically and emotionally painful to watch.
It can be assumed that nobody is supposed to like the characters in this film. They are not meant to be viewed as heroes, and their actions are meant to be detested, but what does that mean for the entertainment value of the movie?
The teens in this movie are sickening and utterly repulsive in their behavior. The way they speak to one another about how “cool” or “fab” the things they are doing is, the way they joke as they drink, and smoke, and snort their way through drugs and alcohol, and then crash their cars into people as a result, the way they use Sam, the adoptive sister of Nicki, who is young enough to be in grade school, in their thefts—it is all disgusting to watch.
The talented cast, of both new and experienced actors, almost all do an admirable job with the material they are given, but again, the material is all garbage. Until the ending, which fails to satisfy or provide any sort of insight into the points the movie continually brings up, the script is utterly directionless. The characters bumble their way onto scenes, laughing, dancing and wasting time, until the scene wraps and they do it all over again in the next scene, and so on, until the movie ends.
There is no message in “The Bling Ring.” It draws attention to the rising prominence of celebrity idolization, but that is it. It never takes a stance on the issue; it just points at it and lets the audience do all of the thinking the scriptwriter should have been doing.
Nothing about this movie is fun to watch, and some of it is nearly unwatchable. One particularly horrible scene involves one of the underage characters and her thirty-something boyfriend preparing to have sex. In her drug-induced state of unbearable stupidity, she pulls out a gun she found in during a burglary and waves it in front of her partner’s face, giggling like a moron as she feints pulling the trigger, before the gun goes off in a wall. This scene serves no purpose other than to waste even more time. No lessons are learned by are characters and no consequences are faced for their actions.
“The Bling Ring” is a beautiful film to look at. The cinematography is wonderful and the Hollywood locations all look gorgeous, but the film just is not any fun to watch. It succeeds so well at portraying its cast of morally-bankrupt characters that it becomes a nauseating pain to sit through.