Of this year's unintentional 'vacuous America quadrilogy' - Spring Breakers; Harmony Korrine's pulsating, acid-trip - Pain & Gain; Michael Bay's swollen nastiness - The Canyons; Schrader and Easton Elllis' sexploitation nonsense - Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring takes a subtle, contemplative approach. Inspired the Vanity Fair article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins" by Nancy Jo Sales, it follows a group of celebrity obsessed teens that use Google to track down their idols and proceed to break into their homes to pilfer from their excess. Don't be confused, you're not going to like anyone in this film, nor are you expected to. This is a dramatisation that uses style to pose questions about celebrity obsessed culture and the seam of sociopathic behaviour in contemporary teen culture.
These new faces are Coppola's sounding-boards for the audience to project upon. Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid in town. When he meets Rebecca (Katie Chang), a fellow troubled school hopping teen, they form an outcast bond. Broussard's Marc is desperate to fit in and when Chang's Rebecca immediately accepts him into their clique he's sycophantically trying to please. Theft is seemingly the only thing that elevates their heart rate. These aren't your gang of badasses Michelle Pfeiffer and Coolio had to wrangle in Dangerous Minds - they are self obsessed mannequins draped in clothes they've been told to wear fulfilling literal and social positions.
Emma Watson's Nicki, the sole familiar face amongst the teen group, almost steals the entire film. Watson's impeccably delivered excuses for staying out late for the purpose of "networking" is great until her sublime filibuster speeches to the media in the wake of her arrest.
Although Leslie Mann's home schooling, advocate of self-improvement book The Secret certainly appears in the film, her stunning delusion about what her children get up to leaves you with the impression that Coppola thinks the entire cross section of L.A youth are free range. However, this isn't the smoking gun in this investigative account, it's merely yet another element of this frustrating confluence of events.
Coppola's direction exudes a pronounced Zen like calm. From outside of Los Angeles and outside of teen life's prerequisite narcissism it's almost impossible to imagine the ease with which idolatry slips into larceny; but Coppola doesn't judge. You're taken along for the ride in all its aloof splendour. The camera is a silent observer stalking through houses with the thieves. Initially the camera lurches through the halls rigid with shock of the ease with which they're able to be inside these private spaces. Once they're proficient Coppola sits back at a distance and surveys their efficiency stripping a starlet's two story palatial mansion in 60 seconds, Nic Cage and Angielina Jolie would have been impressed.
The Bling Ring gives you the feeling that you can reach out and slap these zombified teens out of their apathy - unfortunately you're restricted to your seat and to your judgement - Coppola makes you work.
[rating=3] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.