Sofia Coppola’s career seems to be divided almost equally between two polar opposites: there are introspective style pieces like The Virgin Suicides and the sublime Lost in Translation; and then there are movies about characters that are defined and obsessed by celebrity. Her Marie Antoinette portrayed the Queen of France as the fanciful It-Girl of the 18th Century while her much maligned Somewhere explored the navel-gazing ennui of a fading movie star.
In The Bling Ring, Coppola has perhaps found her most vacuous subjects yet – and we don’t actually mean that as an insult.
Based on a true crime story, it sees a group of semi-privileged Los Angeles teenagers who burgled the homes of celebrities, stealing over $3million in cash and designer goods. Marc, a gay teen with self-diagnosed low self esteem, starts attending a new school only to immediately fall in with the LA equivalent of the Queen Bees from Mean Girls (led by newcomer Katie Chang). There is little attempt to portray these characters as anything but what they are — and what they are is the worst.
As Marc follows his new friends into a dark world of celebrity B&Es, we find ourselves less inclined to sympathise with him. They break into the mansions of stars like Paris Hilton, posting incriminating pictures on Facebook. They steal things from Megan Fox‘s house, all the while talking about her as though they were friends. All the characters display classic psychotic behaviour.
Despite what the posters may tell you, Emma Watson isn’t necessarily the star of this film. Her character is merely one of the gang: a home-schooled rich-girl whose mother (Leslie Mann) is raising her with a weird blend of Christianity, new-age positive thinking and reverence for celebrity culture. Watson’s valley girl accent is a little too mannered to fully blend in with her American co-stars but to her credit, there’s never a moment when you go ‘Hey, that’s Hermione’. She succeeds in becoming the film’s most odious character, a title for which she has plenty of competition.
If reality television has taught us anything, it’s this: while shows like The Kardashians and TOWIE are masquerading as car-crash TV (made from a superficial perspective of disapproval), they’ve actually created aspiration figures for a generation of youths who would like nothing more than to be famous for nothing other than being famous. In a turn of events that can only be seen as a cruel trick played on humanity, one of the real-life gang has since scored her own TV show on the back of her crimes.
Coppola has succeeding in intentionally making a movie with no redeeming characters – one that leaves you with a sense of disbelief and frustration at where society is heading. By dissecting modern celebrity worship and self-obsessive youth culture, she’s created her tightest film and most entertaining effort since Lost in Translation.
The Bling Ring is now available at blinkbox