Film Review: The Bling Ring

Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring is vacuous but suitably entertaining, much like the subject of the film.

New at school, Marc quickly falls in with a group of friends who are obsessed with celebrities. Their desire to immerse themselves in the lives of celebrities grows, from frequenting the same establishments to stealing from their homes…

Based on the real case of teenagers stealing from celebrities’ homes in Hollywood (albeit with names changed), The Bling Ring is a case of style over substance. There is little to the narrative in terms of momentum.

The Bling Ring is not a dull film, but there is little to it beyond the premise. The set up itself is an interesting, particularly as it is based on a high-profile news story. However, there is little for viewers to real get their teeth into.

The Bling Ring follows trait of earlier Sofia Coppola films with its preoccupation with fame and celebrity. Given the narrative, this is more overt than in some of Coppola’s previous films. The Bling Ring offers a negative depiction of society’s interest in celebrities. Any other judgements are less explicit, although some of the parents do not cme out of it well.

Another theme that materialises is loneliness. Key to Coppola’s Somewhere, it also manifests itself in The Bling Ring. There is certainly a sense of protagonist Marc wanting to fit in. Moreover, there is a certain patheticness to the characters and their obsessions.

The film boasts good casting and performances. Israel Broussard, Katie Chang and Emma Watson are convincing as the teens obsessed with the celebrity lifestyle. Leslie Mann is also decent in a slightly comic role.

Coppola’s film does entertain, but is disappointing in its failure to offer something that is genuinely gripping. The themes it presents are certainly worthy of attention; it is just a shame that The Bling Ring does not leave an indelible mark.

Film Review: Somewhere

Somewhere is an aesthetically pleasing film, but the slow pace will not be to everyone’s taste. Somewhere displays flashes of Sofia Coppola’s earlier film Lost in Translation, but fails to live up to the promise of her 2003 hit.

Johnny Marco is a movie star living a vacuous lifestyle at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. When his young daughter comes to visit him, Johnny re-evaluates his life…

The fundamental problem with Somewhere is not that it is a slowing-moving film, but that it is a slow-moving film that fails to pack an emotional punch. Although Johnny is an interesting protagonist, he does not inspire any real emotional reaction. Therefore, it is completely conceivable that viewers will leave screenings wondering what exactly the point of the film was.

There is complete lack of urgency in Somewhere; events are left to unfold at a sedentary pace. Coppola, who also wrote the screenplay, expends energy on the subtle rather than very apparent actions. There is little dialogue in the film, Somewhere concentrates on the unsaid.

Somewhere focuses on the vacuousness of the Hollywood lifestyle and the resulting dysphoria. Rather than the glamour of such an existence, Coppola is intent on fixating on the negative side. Even with women throwing themselves at Johnny, it is clear that this is a shallow life where pleasure is fleeting.

Sofia Coppola’s real talent lies in her ability to effectively cut through the glossiness of the world of celebrity to expose the hollowness of this realm. She does this with a sly humour reminiscent of the photo shoot scene in Lost in Translation. Thus, there are the deeply unsexy pole artists putting on a private show for Johnny, the inane questions at the press conference, and the uncomfortable mould-casting session. Like the rest of the film, subtlety is the key in the humour of these scenes.

Stephen Dorff is solid as Johnny; it is fathomable that the actor may have experienced what is depicted in the film himself. Elle Fanning gives an excellent performance as his daughter Cleo, stepping out of Dakota’s shadow in a very convincing way. Benicio Del Toro’s cameo appears utterly pointless.

Coppola’s shooting style owes more to art house and independent cinema than mainstream Hollywood. There are numerous lengthy shots, but thankfully these stay on the pensive side, rather than becoming overly cumbersome. Despite the film’s negative reaction towards Hollywood, locations are shot beautifully.

As subtle portrait of existential anxiety, Somewhere is not as profound as it thinks it is. The film shows flashes of brilliance but feels a little superficial overall. Ironic, given its theme.

Somewhere was screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.