"A picture that is as shallow as the lives of the protagonists we are portraying..."
In a similar vein to Spring Breakers, Sofia Coppola delves into American youth culture in her latest picture The Bling Ring – another production exploring the issue amongst juveniles to turn to a life of crime in a bid for attention, and the lust and fascination with celebrity culture in an image conscious world, unveiling many of the cracks in a seemingly dysfunctional society. However unlike Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring isn't quite so poignantly well-crafted, and although certainly observing a greater socio-political meaning, we merely scratch the surface, in a picture that is as shallow as the lives of the protagonists we are portraying.
Based entirely on real events, we delve into the life of youngster Marc (Israel Broussard), who, upon starting at a new high school, manages to attach himself to a group of fashionistas, taken under the wing by the self-absorbed ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang). One evening the pair learn that Paris Hilton is out of town, and after a swift Google search, they discover her address and proceed to break into her house, trying on clothes and stealing valuable and personal jewellery. After the success and surprising ease of the robbery, they then decide to break into the homes of a variety of celebrities including the likes of Orlando Bloom, recruiting close friends such as Nicki (Emma Watson), Chloe (Claire Julien) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) to assist them on their criminal endeavours.
The luxury gained from making a film that is based on real occurrences, is the ability to get inside the story, and go beyond the standard news report we may be exposed to, to create some back story and attempt to understand why these people did what they did. However we don't truly get a sense for why this collective of supposedly innocent teenagers, decided to rob houses and steal valuable possessions. Of course it's made apparent that there is an unhealthy adoration towards this particular celebrity lifestyle, but that is as far as we go – when surely to commit such crimes there must be a deeper, more profound reasoning based around contemporary society and culture. Was it something that happened in their home lives to push them towards a criminal vocation? If not, then why were they so desperate to appear chic and fashionable? Sadly these questions are unanswered and as such we struggle to get to the bottom of the group's motives.
As a result of the lack of understanding and comprehension into the actions of these opportunist youths, Coppola does appear to be inadvertently glorifying the actions somewhat, as instead of providing an intelligent and affecting insight, instead it just seems like a bunch of kids having a bit of fun. As such we don't seem to spare a single thought for the victims, and though we are aware of the needlessly lavish lifestyles many of these celebrities abide by, they don't deserve to have a group of strangers gallivanting around their houses when away on holiday.
The performances are mostly impressive, particularly Chang, who has a manipulation to her soulless and vindictive demeanour that we need to see in order to believe how she could entrap someone as 'ordinary' as Marc. Broussard does a fine job in portraying the trepidation of the more tense scenarios, as when they are breaking into houses, any anxiety we feel at the risk of them being caught derives from Marc's reactions. Meanwhile Watson continues to impress post-Harry Potter, tackling a role somewhat detached to what we have seen her in before. Let's just hope she doesn't find herself on set with Orlando Bloom any time soon. That'd be awkward.