Directed by Sofia Coppolla, which is comparable to being directed by Steven Spielberg at a cinephile film festival, this film out of the hundreds of films premiering at the Edinburgh Film Festival will almost certainly have the most commercial success. Even at the official press screening at EIFF there was a massive queue outside the cinema. In fact, in comparison to Sofia Copolla’s filmography this one will definitely appeal to the masses most readily. And why? There is an entertaining excess of pop music, pop culture, and fashion to lust for. There is fashion to be admired and lives to be desired.
Premiering at Cannes this year, the Bling Ring explores the social media addicted generation’s obsession with celebrity culture and the gap which is created that can only be filled with stuff. It is a true story that confirms the American fascination with a Bonnie and Clyde type of fantasy. A real life group of affluent teenagers’ apparent need for designer goods quickly turns into a fetish-induced pillage of the LA mansions of A-list celebrities. The group of high schoolers, which includes actress Emma Watson, stalk the movements of these various celebrities via the internet and then loot their residences when they are out of town typically making socialite appearances.
What is so captivating about this film is how perfectly that gap that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram create between our generation and the celebrity is explored and the extremes which are taken in order to achieve even a piece of the celebrity lifestyle. These teenagers are on the periphery of having all that constitutes the celebrity life. They live in L.A., are pursuing modeling or acting, own designer clothes, want to go to the fashion school that the girls on MTV’s the Hills went to and live in beautiful homes. Kirsten Dunst walks past them nonchalantly at a hip LA club. And Paris Hilton frequents the club they have connections in. However, their want for things goes too far when they end up breaking and entering into the houses of the likes of Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson. Their motivation is not necessarily monetary greed but a fascination for the rich and famous and the designer brands they have.
The Bling Ring also gives a glimpse into the life of celebrity. We are taken into the intimate lives of Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Megan Fox through these break ins. We get a vivid look at their lingerie, booze, pills, and purses. We even get an intimate tour of Paris’ infamous nightclub room garnished with stripper poles and nude photos of herself. And what is so intoxicating in the films of Sofia Copolla is the attention to aesthetic. What entrances so much in her film of very little dialogue, Marie Antionette, is what also fascinates in the Bling Ring: beautiful things. Scenes of Paris Hilton’s closet or the opening shot of Louboutins, diamonds, and Balenciaga bags are some of the most visually pleasing and captivating. The aesthetic is utterly materialistic and superficial but also frivolous and very fun.
The Bling Ring is comparable to the recent films like Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. These two films could be a double pill and draw on many of the same obsessions with material and the idol that is the celebrity. Oddly enough these films don’t contain a lot of actual sex- the physical act of sex. There is a lot of sexuality in Spring Breakers but it is almost nonexistent in The Bling Ring. The decadence of excess is vibrant within the film but there is also poignant American prudishness. The group of thieves do coke and attend the hottest nightclubs but sex is not apparent in their hedonistic pursuits. Maybe it is because there is a focus on materialism and wealth, which our generation cannot obtain, whereas sex is liberal to all.
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