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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 05.21.13] drama crime



The end of the world as we know it is near and if there's one sign of this upcoming apocalypse it's Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. Swaying between documentary and teen-drama with equal parts glamorous and insane, this is a "based on real events" tale of teenagers not only wanting luxurious and overpriced underwear, but wanting them with Paris Hilton pubes still caught into the fabric. Which is inane as I'm fairly certain she waxes...

Paris' trim aside, the film revolves around some new societal disease, often described as a "fantasy gap": a generational increase in narcissism and entitlement (Twenge/Kasser in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.) What it means, as far as we laymen are concerned, is that the average young adult now feels entitled to money, drugs and the basic high-life without any needs, envy or inclination to actually work to attain it. The lazy bastards...


Now I'm going to wildly assume you live in your mom's basement and explain the pitch: A gang of teenagers addicted to the idea of high life and luxury prowls Hollywood, googling stars addresses and schedules in order to go and pillage their houses when said stars are away. Being modern day teenagers they stupidly brag about their incursions to any passing friend and spread their newly acquired wealth and goods on every social network known to man, this ending in obvious ways: A) they are caught, and B) they are now nearly as famous as their victims.

Was it one of the Kray twins that said "We talk, that's how we get caught?" Can't remember, and I'm pretty sure none of the Bling Ring gang ever heard of the Krays. Still, they could have used that advice.

Anyway bundled with that first landscape of already amusingly dense, social study is also a reflection on the public persona, the media and most of all modern parenting.

From what's displayed on screen all of the ring members come from dysfunctional families, adding parental neglect to this equation of collapsed moral values. That said, if there's a mere splinter of reality into that depiction of your average family household, the USA needs to implement breeding and raising permits. Of the four households involved, the prize of bad parenting goes to Nicki (Emma 'Hermione' Watson) and Sam's (Taissa 'American Horror' Farmiga) units: the girls are home-schooled into the most ridiculous piece of post-hippy new-age trash ever laid to paper which also leads to some of the most comically infuriating situations of the picture.

One of the philosophies at the cornerstone of communication is that by being pretty in form you give yourself room for being firm in meaning and this film is a perfect illustration, all of it so subtly and delicately shot it almost seems shallow and devoid of message. Like a still pond alluring you with a few inches of clear water concealing unfathomable depths of pungent muck, something about the light and camera angles is giving the girls a delicate shine, even when they are snorting coke, talking like retarded Irish dockers and generally being as neurotic as syphilitic weasels.

On that particular last point Emma Watson's performance is a delight to watch as she seems to enjoy herself in portraying Jean-Martin Charcot's worst assumptions on the human female. The rest of the cast is en par and there's a wonderful feeling of poisonous innocence permeating the entire experience, mixing fascination and repulsion toward the characters. Extrapolating the five main protagonists as the future template for humanity makes this a pre-apocalyptic setting in all its potential glory, all the while lavishly covered in glitter.

And what glitter it is, enough conspicuous consumption to make good old Thorstein weep, and to make me cringe a little, since most of the brands almost pornographically displayed are present to some extend in my own wardrobe. Seeing the girls go batshit insane over some Owens piece on screen while you're in the theatre clad in the very same brand makes you wonder, believe me. The silvery canvas as a mirror to society failings is one thing, to your own hubris another.

Oh, by the way, could someone explain to me that new trend of walking around holding giant cups of latte? Is it an undocumented human passion for grabbing things or the modern and ethical alternative to the cigarette? If that's the latter it seriously lacks chic.

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