The Bling Ring Review: Emma Watson Seems to Be the Only One With Anything to Say

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There is a moment towards the end of The Bling Ring where the sole male in the group of Beverly Hills bandits states what the entire movie is actually about. But at not one moment do I feel sold on the statement.

He says something to the effect of Americans being obsessed with the Bonnie and Clyde story. Ironically, those criminals in and of themselves were celebrities, another thing director Sofia Coppola thinks people are obsessed with.

And, since this film is based on a true story, it must be true. In 2011 there were in fact several individuals so obsessed with the glitz and glammar of Hollywood life that they robbed the likes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan and more.

But the problem is that Coppola is so aware, and therefore so far removed from this way of thinking that she fails to make any of these characters accessible. In many ways, this film almost feels like her personal revenge for all the public backlash she received after her performance in The Godfather Part III was almost universally panned, robbing her of her acting career.

What’s too bad is that she makes no motion to remedy the issue, instead just being a window on something that will never change.

That is because these characters are sociopaths. With the exception of Marc (Israel Broussard), who questions his friends just about every time they enter a celebrity’s home. But Coppola makes the mistake of not letting us feel how alone he is in the beginning of the film that he would resort to these thieving friends. He joins them too quick. And since throughout the robberies, he barely makes any attempt to stop them, his apology towards the end comes up short as well. What we end up with is a film without a real protagonist. With no one to latch on to, the whole thing ends up pretty lifeless.

That is, of course, besides Emma Watson’s brilliant, potentially Oscar-worthy performance. Here the young actress stretches her wings even farther than The Perks of Being a Wallflower by essentially playing a character who cares about nothing and always gets her way. And boy she plays it with such sarcasm and wit. Watson is ever so slightly over-the-top that at least her character is a parody of the celebrity obsessed culture. If Coppola was truly meaning to comment on anything, pulling Watson’s performance  out of her is her only success. It’s big. It’s subtle. It’s the best damn thing about this film.

But the style, cinematography, and soundtrack are to be commended as well.

So The Bling Ring is not a complete failure. But even with Watson’s scene-stealing turn, she is still an antagonist of sorts. She isn’t supposed to change. Coppola takes a message we all knew was true and takes us nowhere new. But at least when my future kids are being materialistic and obsessed with the next Justin Bieber, I can show clips of Watson’s performance and say “this is what you sound like.” That ought to show ’em. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

 

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