Let me begin by saying I’m not a fan of this film in the traditional way. I don’t sympathise with any of the characters, I think the script was awkward and not engaging, and the pacing of the voice-overs/interviews was disjointed and jarring.
But I am fascinated with this film. I’ve seen it four times now and want to watch it again to see what the next visual ecstasy trip has in store for me. It’s almost a morbid fascination similar to how I will ALWAYS watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians when I have the luxury of staying someplace with cable. I take a certain pleasure in watching vapid people do odious things to establish my own moral high ground. And I would wager that I’m not alone in this feeling.
Take a look at the growing interest in true crime lately. Sure, there has always been Dateline and 20/20, but it seems that podcasts like NPR’s Serial and shows such as Netflix’s Making A Murderer are indicative of a new wave of turning true crime stories into multimedia entertainment. More recently the popular podcast My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark has explored our fascination with the rather taboo subject of true crime and the macabre, bringing their own humorous flair to the retelling of morbid scenarios. The mere fact that Nancy Jo Sales’s 2010 Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins” was adapted for the screen shows that there is a certain intrigue that comes along with tales of real people doing really bad things. In the case of The Bling Ring, the female-ness of the criminals, writer and director, as well as the targeted audience (I would argue that this is a film made by women, for women…a “women’s film,” if you will) subverts the traditional role of women in crime narratives. These teenage girls are the dominant forces, planning and carrying out robberies on celebrity homes. The men are swept to the side of the action and are exploited by the girls for their connections to drugs, money or sex. Marc, Rebecca’s gay best friend and the only guy in on the robberies, is shown to be the apprehensive one, being nervous about breaking into houses and nagging the girls about leaving. The girls show no remorse for their actions and no forethought toward the possible consequence––this is fascinating not only because it is rarely seen, but also because it actually happened. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve seen “girls behaving badly” so many times in narrative media, but equally as often it comes with a tragic backstory involving said girl’s victimisation at the hands of a man, and this ultimately endears you to her character because you want to see a redemption story.
You don’t get redemption or closure in this film; poetic justice doesn’t come in a Tiffany’s box. However, the Chanel and Miu Miu of it all make it perfect fodder for co-writer/director Sofia Coppola.
Sofia Coppola is nothing if not an aesthetic auteur. The distinguishing stylistic elements that mark a film as “a Sofia Coppola” include a soft pastel colour palette, pop-score (regardless of the anachronism…here’s looking at you Marie Antoinette) and a story line that surrounds privileged (usually white) women/girls coping with their upper class ennui. Looking at these through lines in her films it’s easy to read a certain amount of autobiographical expression in her work. That isn’t to say Sofia Coppola was a teenage narcissist, stealing credit cards from unlocked cars out of boredom. But she certainly could be working out some issues from her formative years (girl, ain’t we all?). Art is a form of therapy after all.
The Bling Ring is an addiction because of its perfect marriage of Sofia Coppola’s delicious aesthetic and our cultural craving for all that reality TV and our true crime obsession provides. It’s a fictionalised documentary-cum-reality TV show that perfectly encapsulates all that we love to hate about the gilded lives of the rich and famous topped with a true crime bow.
Give The Bling Ring a chance and I bet you’ll find yourself coming back for another hit.
by Brett Ashleigh
Brett is a queer femme from Durham, NC. She examines the sonic characterizations of marginalized bodies in film. She knows every word to The Princess Bride, is a sucker for Center Stage and Bring it On, and considers director Todd Haynes her spiritual soulmate.
She holds an MFA in Sound Design and an MA in Cinema Studies from Savannah College of Art and Design, and is pursuing a PhD in Communications from Simon Fraser University.