I can appreciate the film that tells a robber's story and watching their transformation from relative innocence into a direction where living as a criminal becomes increasingly commonplace. But it should be said that provided the story that is told about the robber is one where it is engaging or even capably told. And it is hard to tell where The Bling Ring falls into these areas, if it even does. Yet I found myself disinterested at times and flat out wondering in others if watching this made me officially old.
For those unfamiliar, the film is inspired by the real-life events surrounding a group of California teenagers in 2008 and 2009 who would rob from Hollywood socialites. Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation) wrote a screenplay based on a Vanity Fair article which recounted the crimes, and she also directed the film. By far, the most familiar face in the film is Emma Watson of the Harry Potter films, but she is neither the star of the film nor the mastermind of the gang. The story follows Marc (Israel Broussard, Flipped), who has moved to California and that's when Rebecca (Katie Chang) meets him. Rebecca and Marc take things out of unlocked cars before upping the ante with celebrity homes, involving Rebecca's friends Nicki (Watson), Nicki's adopted sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga, Higher Ground), along with Chloe (Clare Julien). Before long, notoriety and drugs involve and potentially doom the quintet.
Coppola does an admirable job of showing us Marc's beginnings before we get involved with the group, but it is easier to point out the merits of the film than its ills, of which there are many. I have no problem watching Marc's descent into darkness, but the film leaves the group as so vapid and without any substance that any chance of sympathy that one could hold for Marc or for anyone in the group is squandered. Broussard plays Marc well, as does Chang as the group's de facto household. Watson and Farmiga are a decent duo to boot.
The performances are serviceable for the most part, but the story and the direction Coppola decides to make are mostly quick hits and lack any real depth to speak of. In fact, some of the things which go on during The Bling Ring appear to be tributes to other movies. Watson's performance as the second and third act goes on are of an adolescent Nicole Kidman in To Die For. As the group's increasingly visible crimes are captures on security cameras and faux newsreel from entertainment gossip channel TMZ, one would presume that Coppola may send a message as to crime, or celebrity, or the bubble that the kids and their victims appear to be it. Save for some dialogue lines that are summed up by an incredulous "they can afford it!" there is nothing here. The kids' mostly disinterested parents (save for a hilarious turn by Leslie Mann, This Is 40) could be used to show how isolated the kids are? Nope, not that either.
What we are left with is little celebration of the group, and a movie that wanted to do more than it actually did, even robbing pieces of more famous (and better) movies along the way. I see some of the praise that the film got after watching The Bling Ring, and not only do I wonder what they saw that I did not, but how on Earth could they have ever seen that to begin with? And with that, I will now water my lawn while telling the kids to get off of it.
The Bling Ring gets an AVC-encoded high definition transfer of its 1.85:1 widescreen appearance, which looks solid. The source material is free of artifacts and little compression, and in darker moments the black levels hold up surprisingly well. The film juggles vintage video of the affected celebrities and the filmed sequences nicely, with some light muting of colors in the courtroom shots. Coppola's Director of Photography for the film Harris Savides died during the production from cancer, but this was a nice looking film to go out on.
The DTS HD-MA lossless track the film sports is quite good, with ample use of the soundstage and particularly the subwoofer during the numerous scenes in the club. The film is loaded with non-club music when the kids are driving in cars and in high school during quieter moments, dialogue is well-balanced throughout. Directional effects are present and convincing and (in the case of a car accident) channel panning is immersive and effective. A pleasant surprise from Lionsgate.
A couple of things, starting off with "Making The Bling Ring" (22:51), which is your standard look at the shoot with some minor wrinkles thrown in. Coppola discusses how she got the story and her desire to make it, despite a crew member's wondering about her interest in it to begin with. Location and wardrobe design in shown, along with the inevitable talk over casting, with interviews of Watson, Chang, Broussard and Mann to accompany it. Everyone also shares their two cents on how Coppola is as a director as well. From there, "Behind the Real Bling Ring" (23:46) looks at the reality of the group and their crimes, with the author of the Vanity Fair piece (Nancy Jo Sales) serving as the center of the feature. In it, we learn about the real group's respective backgrounds and have lots of pictures and video to go with it. As the piece unfolds, the discussion over what is news in the celebrity and/or gossip world is touched on, as their crimes, arrest and aftermath is documented in front of us with interviews and TMZ footage. It is an interesting piece, arguably more so than the film itself. "Scene of the Crime" (10:37) is an interview with Paris Hilton, one of the subjects of the crimes, and she talks about her recollections of the initial burglaries and the moment when Coppola approached her for using her home in the movie. Funny thing, she talks about being "safer" now since the crimes, though she did leave a key under the doormat after all. Along with all of this and the film's trailer (1:48) is a code for a digital copy via the UltraViolet service.
In The Bling Ring, it is at times hard to tell who to root for more, those committing the crimes in the Hollywood Hills, or for the victims to enact some sort of backroom justice. The performances are decent but the story is all over the place and does not spend enough time on one facet to be intriguing. Technically the disc is solid and the extras (particularly the real-life examination) are pretty good. But I would not make an appointment to see this unless one is intensely curious.