The Bling Ring - DVD Review

'feels if nothing else like a consistently authentic representation of a great many of Middle America’s teenage contingent'

Based on the story of the real life “Bling Ring”, a group of Los Angeles teenagers who robbed the houses of many a celebrity including Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom, Sofia Coppola’s latest feels if nothing else like a consistently authentic representation of a great many of Middle America’s teenage contingent. And whilst Coppola’s message about these disaffected young people and their warped perspective on life rings loud and clear by the time the credits roll, spending even the relatively brief running time of ninety minutes with a gaggle of them can at times be a real chore.

After hurriedly introducing us to The Bling Ring’s key players, Coppola wastes no time moving straight into showing us how easily and without conscience central figures Marc (Israel Broussard) and Rebecca (Katie Chang) take to both breaking and entering and grand larceny. Soon joined by their friends Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien) in their new life of ever-escalating burglary, the group’s cycle of stealing, partying, bragging to friends and planning the next celebrity home to target forms the first hour or so of Coppola’s film.

The problem is that what is presented to the audience is often just that: a cycle. The characters show no development during the film’s opening hour, and too often the burglaries never feel distinct or different enough to each other. There are occasions where Coppola demonstrates her directorial skill - a single extreme long shot, for example, of Marc and Rebecca burgling one residence like animate toys in a glass Wendy House is particularly memorable - but for the most part one criminal act looks much like the next here.

The scenes between robberies consist mainly of the teens using Google Maps and celebrity news sites to research whose residence to hit next in a sort of underdeveloped hybrid of Clueless and Ocean’s 11 via The Social Network; or of the group flaunting their spoils in nightclubs and at parties, which much like the burglary scenes have a nagging sense of déjà vu. For all its repetitiveness however, there’s no denying that Coppola acutely puts on screen the life a great many teens of today seemingly aspire to, particularly through the solid performances of many of her young cast.

The director manages to rescue The Bling Ring further through a final act far stronger, and containing more smart ideas, than anything that has preceded it. Coppola finally finds her voice with gusto as the Ring’s antics reach their inevitable conclusion around an hour in. All of a sudden The Bling Ring takes on a sharply realised message tinged with satire about the perspective these teenagers have on life, what is important to them, and the apparent indifference at least some of them have towards treating others with complete contempt. The director throws a wealth of worthy ideas into the ring, unfortunately too many for the film to handle as well as you’d like in the remaining thirty minutes she gives herself.

Had Coppola spent fifteen minutes more developing the third act, whilst reducing and refining the opening hour to a leaner forty-five minutes, The Bling Ring would be both a stronger and better balanced film overall. As it is, this is top heavy and too often without enough to say, but undeniably a valuable - and occasionally fascinating - representation of 21st Century youth culture.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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