Dark drama is emotionally cold, but very haunting

by Leonardo Castaneda

Courtesy of A24/MCT
Courtesy of A24/MCT

Director Sofia Coppola’s latest hot topic is a real band of teenage thieves. Coppola’s film “The Bling Ring,” based on the Hollywood Hills burglaries of 2008 to 2009, follows a group of five misguided teens from Calabasas. They rob celebrity homes for the thrill and the designer clothes. All of them enjoy the luxurious glamour of their stolen goods and become addicted to the habit. Eventually, their sweet life falls apart after the teens get caught on tape. The rest is history.

Coppola approaches the reenactments with a hands-free portrayal of the adolescents in “The Bling Ring.” She avoids dramatization and maintains an objective telling of the accounts. Through an open narrative with an outsider point-of- view, Coppola invites the audience to create their own interpretations.

The tale unfolds in a candid fashion. “The Bling Ring” relies more on how the characters change than its sequence of events to keep the narrative engaging. As the teens escalate their robberies, their addictions intensify to feed their obsession with fame. They slowly fall into a downward spiral and appear completely delusional by the end of their transformations.

The impact of “The Bling Ring” depends on how empathetic the main characters are to the viewers, and Coppola’s detached vision makes it somewhat difficult to root for them.

Throughout the movie, Coppola does provide moments for spectators to intimately connect with the young adults. Instead, these bits are often found during the burglaries. With each robbery, the dynamics of the group become clearer and the role of each person becomes more apparent. For example, each visit to Paris Hilton’s home—a house that is broken into multiple times by the

teens—finds them having different perspectives on life than the previous visit. Each heist places the members of the gang at their most comfortable and with a sense of freedom in their own world. This is evident in a serene scene in which the girls apply makeup in Lindsay Lohan’s home.

Despite the film’s intimate moments, there’s little information given about the teens’ background and few clues are revealed about their thoughts and feelings. The emotional ambiguity of the criminals creates much intrigue in “The Bling Ring,” but sacrifices feelings of empathy when they fall. The plot concludes anticlimactically after the group gets arrested. The sentencing of the members seems inconsequential.

Coppola shows little interest in explicitly expressing her views in the “The Bling Ring,” but ends the tale with a self-awareness statement concerning the issue of doing anything to become famous. In the final sequence, Coppola decides to join the cruel game of fame as Nicki (Emma Watson) invites fans to follow her “story” on her website. Nicki is no longer a criminal, but a celebrity worthy of attention.

“The Bling Ring” is proof that notoriety sells regardless of morals or background. Coppolacleverlymarkets this idea through a docudrama of delinquents obsessed with fame and celebrities, trying to gain attention in the process. Little time is spent getting to know the troublemakers, but if viewers attentively follow these infamous delinquents, perhaps they will relate to the crew m ore than they ever expected.