July 7, 2013

The Bling Ring

A compelling perspective on the modern obsession with celebrity, vanity, and narcissism, as told via the true-life story of The Bling Ring, a pack of nearly feral teenagers who cross the line between coveting fame and felonious residential burglary.
My Stub Hubby grade: A. Sofia Coppola is a gifted storyteller. The Bling Ring moves along with a beautiful economy and deft grace. In Stub Hubby history, I don't remember ever saying a movie isn't too long, but Bling Ring's 90 minute runtime is just right. It feels like a short film compared to most 120 minute features these days. I was amazed at how perfect the songs and original music were. Outstanding.
I found the movie to be a damning condemnation of celebrity culture and narcissism. These un-parented teenagers break into Paris Hilton's home, take the grand tour, and help themselves to all her material possessions. I saw this as a natural extension of celebrity culture. After all, Paris Hilton and her kind have no privacy, their life is an open book (or open web page)...so why should their homes be closed to the public? It was easy to understand why these teens felt so welcome strolling shamelessly into celebrity's houses, when they literally knew Hilton's house: "oooh, here's her party room" as if they'd been there before. As they strolled through each room, repeatedly exclaiming "she has so much stuff!" I was reminded of Graceland - all that was missing was the velvet ropes and DO NOT TOUCH signs. Indeed, paid tours are the natural extension of celebrity after death.
These teenagers have no inner life, they have no feelings for each other, or for anything of substance. They never talk to each other about anything; when they relax at a nightclub, all they do is take selfies with each other, over and over again. Normal human beings will take selfies to commemorate a special moment or event; in The Bling Ring, the photos themselves are the event. When they're not robbing or partying, all they do is repeatedly try on clothes and accessories, gazing upon themselves in the mirror, reinforcing the Narcissus theme.
Emily pointed out Coppola's non-judgmental "authorial distance". It's true that Coppola seems to be conflicted about a love of fashion and celebrity culture. Except for getting caught and punished for their crimes, she does not depict any negative consequences of their actions. I'm sure these teenagers, if they ever thought about it, would conclude that they were stealing pennies from millionaires, who, in Paris Hilton's case, hardly missed any of the property that was stolen, and the property itself was often given as gifts anyway. Coppola's chooses not to show how home invasions and theft are personally terrorizing to families: Perhaps Coppola chose to preserve the perfect Narcissistic perspective. After all, Narcissus gazed on his reflection so long he became forever a flower. Does Coppola feel that this generation will never learn to love anyone but themselves?
Somerville Theater, with Emily and Karen. I think the audience was expecting a movie more funny and less thought-provoking?

Also From Sofia Coppola