‘The Bling Ring’ Is Excellent Eye Candy, But Not Entertaining

There’s a certain belief that people reach a cultural Age of Reason, a peak in development where their taste in music, films and books settles itself, and stays that way for the rest of their life.

It’s how Dad Rock happens. It’s why my parents only listen to Cat Stevens and Meatloaf, while the 30­-somethings in my office keep the Stone Roses flame alive. They may welcome new music, via Guardian ‘Best of 2013’ lists and the odd glance down the Pitchfork sidebar, but really nothing will compare to what they listened to in their glory days.

I fear I reached my fashion age of reason in the later part of the noughties. Seven Jeans and Splendid tees territory. Droopy scarves, Juicy Tubes, Dogeared charms and hair extensions, overpriced slouchy cotton shirts a size too big, the better to drown out an anorexic frame. Accessorised always with a Starbucks cup.

Somewhere inside I’m still impressed by an LV monogram, or even just Coach. It’s style at its most materialistic: late 90s logomania giving way to Zoebot diet pill decadence. It was a time when every young promising starlet was addled and zombie­eyed, an inner hollowness like sunken bones dressed in velour and Hello Kitty pink.

Do readers in their 20s share my nostalgia? The release of The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s retelling of the real­life 2009 thefts, would confirm it. A kind of Buzz­-fed retromania surrounds the film, journalists equal parts thrilled and disgusted by its own tabloid history. A parade of tanned girls stepping in and out of cars carrying Starbucks iced coffees. Camera flashes, court dates and Juicy Couture bags. ‘Too skinny’ concern porn. It’s nice to look back and see how far we’ve come from those formative years, though we fetishize it as ever.

The film itself was curious. While Spring Breakers, surely The Bling Ring’s spiritual sister, enveloped you in an alcopop glow that made even its most tawdry moments charming, The Bling Ring left me cold and confused. Glassy-­eyed like an Adderall child, it confidently stomped on screen in too-big shoes to the sound of Sleigh Bells’ awesome ‘Crown on the Ground’. Then it progressed into an orgy of very expensive things, and glamorous people stealing them. Then it did the same again, repeating for 90 minutes until they got caught.

Coppola is great at telling stories visually and shrugging off the need for explanation or dialogue. She shows you beautiful people, who act as laws unto themselves. Scarlett wanders absently through Tokyo, while Marie Antoinette lives for distraction from the chaos outside her palace gates. Ditto the dreamy adolescent non­logic which drives characters through The Virgin Suicides. But The Bling Ring needed something more than a list of repossessed objects in custody. This film was lacking a soul.

Israel Broussard came close as Marc, the dopey fall guy drawn by Katie Chang’s Rebecca into a series of Hollywood Hills robberies. He’s the closest we have to a protagonist: we see the events from inside his logged­in Facebook.

We warm to the photobooth shots of him coughing through bong hits, staggering in heels to impress the girls, but he ultimately comes off blank and feckless. The girls are cartoonish:
Chang is prissy and cold enough to hint at some darker klepto tendencies, and Emma Watson is entertaining as the mindless New Age­raised Nicci. But even her shallowness is too shallow, and she could have had more fun with the part. In one scene Watson idly sways around a stripper pole ­it’s Hermione on a freaking stripper pole!!!!­ and yet her boredom is palpable.

Still, it makes excellent eye candy. You’ll be carted back to UGG boot summers and rhinestone gym clothes, a trip in reverse through Lindsay’s chronology of DUIs. The Bling Ring is fun, just not as fun as it could have been, and you might have more fun torrenting The Simple Life instead. TC mark

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