The Bling Ring which premiered this afternoon in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival is, contrary to the small sampling of negative early twitter buzz I happened across, another winner from Sofia Coppola. Less contemplative than her glacially paced (but wonderful) previous film Somewhere, Bling returns in a way to some of the territory the writer/director examined with the under-appreciated Marie Antoinette – a culture of excess gone horribly wrong. In this case, she follows the true life exploits of a pack of little Queen of France wannabes for whom breaking and entering the homes of celebrities is a perfectly reasonable means to an end which they think they unquestionably deserve.
I have to admit, I was skeptical of the film going in. The subject matter just didn’t seem to offer a rich vein of interesting material, but I should’ve trusted the instincts of the filmmaker who has yet to let me down. Populated by a mostly (to me) unfamiliar cast including Vera Farmiga’s younger sister Taissa, audiences will recognize Harry Potter’s Emma Watson who is definitely playing against type in her role as Nicki, not the ring-leader, but a willing participant in raiding the homes of such celebrities as Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Megan Fox. Leslie Mann also turns up in an amusing bit as Nicki’s mother who tries to lead a life based on Helena Blavatsky’s “The Secret.” The whole cast is good however; believably inhabiting these vacant teens who feel eerily similar to the kinds of young women and men you encounter all over LA County.
Interestingly Coppola never passes judgment on them. She doesn’t let them off the hook or in any way excuse their behavior – they made their own choices which are uniformly repellent – but she’s more interested in the instant gratification-obsessed society of ours that helped create them. These girls (and boy) aren’t the disease. They’re a symptom; the final logical result for an entire narcissistic generation raised by overly-permissive parents who medicate first and ask questions later. Fueled by a frightening sense of self-entitlement, overly intoxicated by hyper-materialism and worshipful of celebrities who are famous just for being famous, you can call them Generation TMZ. The irony is that TMZ is the first in line to cannibalize the monsters they helped create. They manufacture celebrities out of nothing and then consume them whole for our collective amusement. It’s Lindsay Lohan all over again, but this time it’s trickled down to your daughters and their friends at school. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Notably, The Bling Ring is the last film for cinematographer Harris Savides who died in October 2012 and to whom the film is lovingly dedicated.