Coppola does what Coppola does best in her new release. In fact, there is little to fault about the directing; clever shots, interesting components, and a seamless switch between the real life footage and the screenplay, makes the hard task of bringing the 2008 crime spree to the screen difficult to condemn. Yet, despite casting the infamous Emma Watson, The Bling Ring is not suited for the red carpet it hails from.
As one of the few female directors hitting the big screen, Coppola has made a name for herself through, sometimes controversial, but always clever films. In her most recent venture, she dares to tackle the real life 2008/9 crime spree of Hollywood Hills teen Rachel Lee & co. Obsessed with the fashion and lifestyle, the group stole property accumulating to over $3 million from homes including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Megan Fox. Coppola, of a privileged Hollywood upbringing herself, shows concern for the younger generations as those included within the film through unsympathetic characters, realistic footage, and a complete lack of emotion.
In the past, Coppola has stunned with her emotive debut, The Virgin Suicides, thrown a new perspective into the history of Marie Antoinette, and blown critics away with her unusual screenplay for‘Lost in Translation‘. However, the response on Coppola’s work is far from consistent. She has highlighted many questionable subjects and gone against conventions despite the media. And she does this once again with The Bling Ring. So, why isn’t this film great?!
The problem lies (mainly) with the two lead teenagers depicting gang members Nick Prugo and Rachel Lee. Teamed with awkward scripting, they make for uncomfortable watching from the beginning. Unlike their ring members, in the shape of American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga and world-famous witch Watson, their presence has been chosen for relatable looks over acting ability. Coppola has the two meet and act in a surreal manner one would expect to see in the reality TV shows so admired by the real youths. But then perhaps that is the point. Whatever may be the reason, she leaves us disconnected and very much aware we are witnessing a real tale.
It is never clear with Coppola whether decisions are made purposefully or unsuccessfully. And perhaps that is why I left the viewing in a constant state of opinionated flux. But one thing is for certain, the characters are unlikeable for obvious reasons; this is not a platform for their namesakes. In fact, there is an obvious air that Coppola’s fascination with the story is of the disturbing obsession with celebrity.
With all active members of the robberies now released, it is inevitable some have used the media adaptation to their own advantage. This itself highlights the much deeper, darker issue of what it means to be famous in the 21st century. Through film she questions what worryingly defines the day modern celebrity. Drugs, vanity, money, and even jokes at the rehab and court habits of faces such as Lindsay Lohan, all play a role in the portrayal of modern day fame. The reality is only heightened by the response of 6-time target Paris Hilton; her cameo and offering of her own home for filming location stands as an example of the blasé attitude towards life far too common in a reality-television obsessed age.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom! Coppola lightly dusts the eerie disconnection with subtle jokes and, with it, keeps that air of realism. Yet, even then is the film disconcerting. Whilst the more ‘privileged’ amongst the audience seemed to find the exploits into fashion, celebrity, and theft humorous, I found myself in discomfort and disbelief.
Leaving the preview last night, its fair to say I am still in a dazed state of mind at what I saw. Did I ‘like’ it? Yes…and no. At times, especially towards the beginning, it was stiff and, for a real life tale, unrealistic. But did I enjoy it as a cinematic experience? I suppose I did. As a ‘piece of art’ everything appears to have a purpose, whether that purpose is accessible to comfortable watching or not. But as a film… Let’s just say this is one watcher who won’t be purchasing the DVD. ‘The Bling Ring‘ belongs in the ArtHouse.
The Bling Ring opens in cinemas tomorrow!