Text by – CLAUDIA FRANGIAMORE
Translation by – JULIA PERRY
“They worshiped the stars and decided to live like them.”
Accompanied by a heavy marketing campaign and subject to relentless media coverage for several months, on September 26th, Bling Ring, the latest film by Sofia Coppola ,was finally released.
Ever since its presentation at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, it has left us with much to discuss: the film inaugurated the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, prompting conflicting reviews not only by the most esteemed film critics, but even by Sofia Coppola fans. After seeing Somewhere, in fact, one gets the impression that the common denominator that binds Lost In Translation and Marie Antoinette, considered her most successful films, is still present and tangible, but after watching Bling Ring, all hope for this factor is lost, leaving room for a sinister and far from heroic decadence.
Its characters are always consumed by a kind of dissatisfaction with the life they have lived, their present and their potential future. Not for nothing, conclusions typical of these kinds of stories in her films are death and, above all, escape.
In Bling Ring the characters have nothing to escape from, if not from themselves, but this obviously doesn’t happen because of the corrupt world we are living in: the action that should be condemned here is exalted. The person who commits the crime is elevated to an elite status by a shapeless mass of young Americans fascinated, in a perverse manner, by criminality.
The setting: the scene of this story is set in Los Angeles, in the city considered to be a homeland to celebrities, luxury, and excess, making it obvious that, sooner or later, an event like the one told of in Bling Ring would have happened: a group of four girls and a guy sneak into celebrities’ private homes, within Hollywood and out. These homes all have as a binding factor, not only their expensive front, but are also considered status symbols and ideal models of a lifestyle that outlines a glossy, fabulous, and glamorous world.
Although these teens come from wealthy families, the protagonists of the story aren’t satisfied by what they already have: their desire is to be like the celebrities they choose as victims.
Evidence of this being their intention is spoken by Marc Hall (the only guy in the group) when the group comes together in one of the most glamorous LA clubs and, mixed with the fumes of alcohol and drugs, his voice, in an ecstatic tone states: “When we went out, we got into every place and everyone loved us.”
The long list of celebrities’ homes that were hit by the Los Angeles-gang includes the names of Paris Hilton, whose house was burglarized “seven or eight times” and Lindsay Lohan’s, along with Rachel Bilson’s, Orlando Bloom’s, and Megan Fox’s. Let’s face it, leaving the keys under the mat at the entrance of a house is not exactly a great way to make your home burglar proof making these victims unlucky as well as a tad naïve.
What leaves us speechless is the way in which the group doesn’t do anything at all to hide their crimes, and how, in fact, even boasts about them: they post photos onto Facebook in which they’re wearing their loot in order to be able to have evidence to back up the stories they tell to their friends and acquaintances.
All of this done without any justifiable reason other than the pure and profound belief that everything could be done without being discovered nor stopped.
Their malicious stealing isn’t even halted when Audrina Partridge’s surveillance cameras, and later on also Lindsay Lohan’s, capture the group coming and going from the house as if nothing happened, and video footage of the teens is transmitted to the national news. This paves way for the police, who eventually manage to identify the gang members due to forced confessions by their acquaintances.
Although Coppola has always satisfied a certain expressive intent in her previous films, this time she failed to reconcile her style of representation of reality with the need to document a piece of news as objectively as possible. The dialogue is minimal, suspended, nihilist, typical of her films, which, sorry to say, isn’t appropriate when paired with the pace of the narration punctuated by a soundtrack unquestionably different from what we are used to. For the first time we hear dance songs that accompany the various scenes in the film, especially those shot in clubs, meaning music by artists such as Avicii and deadmau5 makes an appearance in order to create that sense of relentless pursuit of the new, that feeling of wanting more and not wanting to stop even when one should.
None of the protagonists seem to regret their actions. The group’s leader, on the other hand, played by Emma Watson, continues to support her innocence until the end, between whining and making false statements, knowing that she’s guiltier than all the others. Only Marc admits that what happened was absurd and that the sole reason as to why he didn’t want to back out was to not go back to his loser status but to instead have friends and be accepted.
Conclusion? Excellent direction, as always, although it is very difficult for Coppola’s proverbially “slow” and reflective dialogue to properly mesh with the topic’s needs of a documentary like narration.
I expected minor stylistic variations, especially in the script, so as to “fill in” most of the void left by a content that, in this case, leans towards scarceness. It would have been possible to do better, to be more incisive, but at least the main message came through: the world is often filth veiled by the reflection of diamonds.