Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Film Review: The Bling Ring:

source: Google Images
I recently watched this film with my housemates. I’d been keen to see it for a while because I had previously read about it on, and I knew that Emma Watson would be in it, I adore Emma Watson purely due to Harry Potter bias. Aside from Watson the film also stars American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga, playing Watson’s adopted sister, and centres around the true story of a group of Californian thieves who came to be known as ‘the Bling Ring’.
Based on the article ‘the Suspects Wore Louboutins’ by Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales, the Bling Ring tells the story of a group of Calabasas locals who robbed the houses of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge and Rachel Bilson during the period between October 2008 and August 2009.
source: Google Images

About the Bling Ring:
Rachel Lee (alleged ringleader) and Nick Prugo met innocently enough at Indian Hills High: Prugo (whom the film character Marc Hall was based on) was the quintessential shy new kid, befriending the beautiful, vacuous and celebrity-obsessed Lee, and constantly worrying over the anxious possibility of losing her friendship. It was this anxiety, Prugo confessed during his court proceedings, that led him to assist Lee in burglarising the homes of celebrities.
When, in the film, Watson tilts her glassy-eyed head to the side and pleads, 'C'mon, I wanna rob,' the message she delivers is frighteningly close to the light-hearted way the characters real life counterparts described their exploits, saying they were 'going shopping' before hitting a house;  “You grabbed a suitcase and filled it up with whatever you wanted.” Prugo admitted in Sales' Vanity Fair article.
It was via Lee that Prugo met the others who would eventually become the criminal gang known as the Bling Ring. Both teens were residents of the small southern Californian community of Calabasas (home of the Kardashians among other high-profile families) Lee lived with her mother and ran in the same social circle as fellow teenagers and young adults; Alexis Neiers, Diana Tamayo, Courtney Ames, Johnny Ajar and Roy Lopez, Jr - all of whom were involved in the court proceedings, many of whom were charged with theft and forced to make restitution and/or serve time in prison.
source: Google Images
About the film:

Sofia Coppola's portrayal of young, fame-obsessed teenagers living in an equally focussed community shies away from any blunt accusations on Hollywood's part - however she delivers this film in a beautifully shot and written manner. The ensemble cast, made up of Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Isreal Broussard, Katie Chang and Claire Julien, saves the film - these are actresses and actors who grew up during a period where every form of social media acts like ones' own personal version of TMZ, watching them and waiting until they mess up. In the case of the Bling Ring, they messed up big-time, and posted the pictures to Facebook to prove it.

 While conversing (as I always do during films) with my housemates about what we thought of this film I mentioned that while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Rather than a film the Bling Ring should be viewed, I believe, as a behavioural study. When we delve underneath the vapid surface the actors attempt to veneer over true dramatic skills we begin to understand the true depth of the story; this is a tale of deep insecurity, and how the inherent human need to strive affects us all.

The characters in the film (and their real-life counterparts) began their larceny endeavours on a small scale; simply wanting a taste of glamour, maybe some extra cash. They were desperate somehow - which is something Lee and Prugo may not have noticed about themselves on their first crime spree, as they waltzed down Lee's own street checking car doors and snatching valuables from the open ones. Somehow, even while these girls were young, beautiful and came from well-off families they were still craving something else. Something more.

source: Google Images

They attempted to fill whatever emotional holes had been carved into their lives with Herve Leger, Chanel, the exact Louboutin’s Audrina wore to that particular MTV party they saw on TV. They designed their lives around the celebrity model; they wore beautiful clothes, hung out with beautiful people, they tried their hardest to get in with the A-list – all the while undercutting the people they wanted to be – they went out, drank and took the drugs they found in celebrity homes. In the end one member of the Bling Ring (Alexis Nieiers, whom Watson's Nicki Moore is based on)even shared a cell block with Lindsay Lohan, a victim of the crimes.

Tabloid magazines, reality TV shows, trends of all kinds – these are all things that have been designed to sell something as part of a lifestyle, rather than by itself. Our media tells us that being an actress is no longer about being an actress; it’s about being famous, owning a thousand beautiful designer dresses and showing wealth off at every turn - especially the intangible kind of wealth that appears to come with five million followers on Twitter. In order to elevate the self, we are told, we must elevate our social status through possessions, trends and riches. Magazines cry, only with these THINGS surrounding you will you be happy!

It’s an old Buddhist truism, that happiness and self-worth cannot be gained from material possessions, but only constant spiritual awareness that acknowledges others (and the self) and their/your needs. When what we do comes from mutual respect, of ourselves, people, and the world, we will rarely fail in finding acceptance and happiness in that situation.

 In the end, the Bling Ring is a film, and a rather well-done film at that. It moves slowly, but fans of Coppola's previous work will be used to this. And it urges the audience to question the characters motives, why are they so obsessed with fame? What is lacking in their current lives?
All in all, I give it a 6/10, worth the watch.

Xo, Ellen