I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Bling Ring (2013) vs. The Bling Ring (2011) (plus Spring Breakers)

tn_blingringIt’s a crazy story, and it really happened pretty much like this: a group of well-off high school kids in the Valley, obsessed with celebrities and their clothes, decided to start robbing them. Using Google to find their addresses, and TMZ and Twitter to find out when they were out of town to host a party or attend an awards show, they’d show up at their mansions, let themselves in, then have the run of the place like it was the mall in DAWN OF THE DEAD. They stole clothes, handbags, jewelry, cash and (they say) cocaine. They chose Paris Hilton as their first victim because they thought she was “dumb” and might leave a door unlocked – sure enough they say they found the key under the welcome mat. Others (Lindsay Lohan, Brian Austin Green, Orlando Bloom, some reality show people I never heard of) left doors or windows unlocked. These kids chose celebrities whose fashion they admired, and they happened to be people with so much shit that they didn’t even notice when it was gone. Not until more experienced criminals got involved and knew to take the most expensive jewelry.

It all starts with a new kid at the alternative high school, called Mark in the movie and played by Israel Broussard. He’s a little awkward and has anxiety problems, so it’s hard for him to fit in until Rebecca (Katie Chang) zeroes in on him, they start hanging out and when they flip through a fashion magazine they realize how much they have in common. She shows him a fun time at parties and clubs and then pushes him into prowling cars with her. He’s real uncomfortable with it but enjoys it when she uses the proceeds to take him clothes shopping. It’s her that comes up with the idea of the celebrity break-ins, and she’s always in charge. He gets scared and keeps wanting to leave and she keeps reassuring him, “It’s fine.” And he believes her.

They get some of their other friends involved, including two sisters and one friend who live together with their new agey mom (Leslie Mann). It’s nomp_blingring13t mentioned in the movie, but in real life the family had just started filming a reality show for E! about this lady trying to home-school three bratty socialites. (The show ended up being retitled Pretty Wild and dealing mainly with the trial.) After seeing footage of the real mom, Andrea Arlington, it’s obvious that Mann was the only choice. She has a similar voice and a knack for being likable while playing an idiot. The character is a well-meaning goof who gives her kids daily lessons based on The Secret. A fairly accurate depiction, judging from Arlington’s websight.

They have a connection to get into a club exclusive enough that they spot two major celebrities (one a future Bling Ring victim, the other star of two previous Coppola films) and try to act casual. Being in a place like this, among these people, must be a great honor for them, but it doesn’t occur to them to try to have fun. They spend their time sitting on couches, looking at their phones and taking pictures of themselves. When one of them dances the others make fun of her.

Their robberies are not some kind of Robin Hood thing, and don’t seem to really be about the money either, although they do fence some of the things they steal. Mostly they want those brand name items they read about. They want to wear celebrity underwear. They want to hang out in Paris Hilton’s “night club room,” dance on her stripper pole. Some of these homes they violate are just as ridiculous as they are. I love that both Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton have big letters spelling out their first names inside their homes.

Hilton’s place is a shrine to herself, full of framed magazine covers, pillows with her face on them, things like that. Also, a room with enough shoes to impress Imelda Marcos. They look at the shoes and discuss her foot size and know all about the brands already. The way we know who directed and starred in such-and-such these kids know the brand names of clothes they could never buy, only steal. It seems believable that this would be Hilton’s house, and that’s because it is. I can’t decide if her letting Coppola film there means she has a sense of humor about herself or that she’s completely clueless.

Predictably, Coppola interjects social media screen shots, nightvision security camera footage and fake interviews to tell parts of the story, but like in some of her other movies she mostly finds style through stark simplicity. The movie is dedicated to Harris Savides, her SOMEWHERE cinematographer who died during filming and was replaced by Christopher Blauvelt (MEEK’S CUTOFF). It feels very raw and basic, no show-offy movements, only show-offy lacks of movement. The most noticeable one is the uninterrupted exterior shot of a glass house (there are many types of architecture shown off in these celebrity homes) as Mark and Rebecca run from room to room looking for good things to steal.

The cast are all very natural and un-actorly, with the exception of HARRY POTTER pal Emma Watson. With her ridiculous self-seriousness and Valley Girl inflection she seems like the only caricatured performance, but once you see footage of the real woman you realize that Watson was generously toning her down. She still gets alot of the laughs in the movie. Her funniest line (which I won’t give away, even though it’s in the trailer) comes from the actual transcripts. Her careful planning of when and where to stop and make a press statement on the way to the courthouse was also, apparently, real.

This is a bit of a problem though, because Coppola usually has great empathy for her characters, even Marie Antoinette. But how do you muster up much love for these shallow assholes? Mark fares the best because Broussard seems very likable and down to earth, and makes him sound smarter than his actions would indicate. Mark has some self awareness at the end, and we can understand why Rebecca’s friendship was so important to him. I did feel a little bad for him when, after all this, his best friend wouldn’t even look at him.

Overall it’s a fun story, but what it says about our culture is pretty up front from the beginning, there’s not alot of room for deep reflection. And since it’s mostly following what actually happened, not throwing in any extra thriller elements or anything, it gets a little repetitive. Going through Paris Hilton’s clothes, going through somebody else’s clothes, going through Paris Hilton’s clothes again. It feels more obvious and slight than Coppola’s other movies.

Part of this may come from me having seen SPRING BREAKERS first (and then watching it again right after BLING RING). Both are about groups of superficial young idiot girls (plus one boy) who drink, drug, listen to dubstep and go on crime sprees together. Both have girls dressing and acting hyper-sexualized while exhibiting little interest in actually having sex (one girl making out with a guy at a party is the closest they get in this one). Both have a skinny-little-rich-white-girls-fascinated-by-black-culture motif. In this one they drive around rapping along with Rick Ross and greet each other as “homey” or “dog” (although not as often as “bitch” or “slut”).

I think the Bling Ring are more materialistic than the Spring Breakers, except for Alien. They’re like Alien, they want you to look at all their shee-it. They pose with it on Facebook. Both groups seem to commit their crimes mostly for the hedonistic pleasure. They’re having fun. But the element of celebrity is absent from SPRING BREAKERS outside of discussing the music of Britney Spears. No one seems impressed that Alien is a locally successful rapper, for example. It’s refreshing, come to think of it, that those girls aren’t looking to become Bonnie and Lonnie and Clyde. The Bling Ring aren’t either, because things were working better when nobody noticed them, but of course it all stems from their obsessions with these celebrities, and when getting busted gets them notoriety they embrace it.

In a way it makes me respect the Spring Breakers more. I can’t agree that Britney Spears is an angel, but at least she’s a singer. She sang at least two songs that we see are important to these girls. The Bling Ring choose their hero/victims based not on what they do, but what they own. Their shee-it. Of the celebrities they target the most artistically accomplished is probly Lohan, but I’m pretty sure they know her more from gossip than from THE PARENT TRAP or PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Note Mark’s daily ritual of reading about which celebrity got a DUI last night. They’re moving up in the world when one of their group gets one for herself.

I guess actually the most accomplished is Orlando Bloom, since he’s in the LORDs OF THE RINGSes and the PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEANs. Dual trilogies. I don’t think it’s mentioned in the movie, but in reality they chose him because they read about an expensive watch he owned. In the movie they may be more interested in his girlfriend, a model.

While SPRING BREAKERS turns into SCARFACE (on repeat) at the end, THE BLING RING stays grounded. I don’t think they realize how serious their crimes are. They’re just up to some mischief. In the scariest scene the fantasy world is invaded by a gun belonging to Brian Austin Green. It’s pulled out, fondled, admired, passed around haphazardly, seeming poised to accidentally fulfill its function all over 90210-funded walls. That’s when the idiotic innocence leaves the building. Their crime spree finally goes sour when they start working with an established criminal, a fence. This guy comes in knowing what’s the expensive jewelry to sell, all the sudden the police are looking for them. At the end, in a great sequence of the ring’s upper class lives being interrupted by their arrests, these two are brushed off with quick, unceremonious shots of being dragged from their working class families and/or dingy hotels. A part of the world the Bling Ring wouldn’t want in their lives, or in their movie.

* * *

mp_blingring11There’s also a made-for-cable THE BLING RING from 2011 – the SWORD OF GIDEON to Coppola’s MUNICH – and it has some stylistic similarities. Like Coppola, director Michael Lembeck (SANTA CLAUSE 2-3, TOOTH FAIRY) has fake interviews throughout, skips between the events and the aftermath and uses lots of security cam POVs and screenshots of social media. Of course, it looks and sounds like a Lifetime TV movie, not a Sofia Coppola movie shot by Harris Savides, so there’s a pretty big stylistic difference.

Of course the production values are very different too, whether or not the budget was. Coppola obviously had access to many ridiculously rich people’s homes. While this has a pretty good likeness of Hilton’s place there is obviously alot more faking-it going on. You don’t see all the modern architecture and opulent furnishings.

Also, of course, the soundtrack isn’t as good. And they have a brief spotting of a Hilton lookalike instead of the real one. They’ve got a harder row to hoe here.

Since they can’t rest on style they have more plot. The boy (called Zack in this one and played by Austin Butler)’s parents (especially Jennifer Grey as his mom) are important characters. His dad’s job at a studio (mentioned in the new one) is more important. There’s a detective character (Tom Irwin) trying to catch them, so it turns into kind of a procedural, and there’s a whole thing where this old guy has to learn how to use Facebook to follow what they’re doing and make contact with them. He becomes their Facebook friend! Is he in too deep? Is he gonna get too close? Is this gonna turn into a John Woo movie?

In the new one there’s rampant cocaine, marijuana and drunk driving, in the old one it’s played down quite a bit. I thought they were using coke on a time lapse security cam shot but it also kinda looked like they were just stealing food. In the new one there’s a line that indicates yes, Mark is gay, like you wondered after he knew so much about clothing brands. In this one they don’t say that, and then make him fall for a normal girl outside of the clique. This becomes the main thrust of the plot as he kind of tries to get out of the stealing to be closer with this girl, but Rebecca vengefully gets her involved, and then Mark’s mission of redemption is to offer himself up to the detective in such a way that this innocent girl won’t get dragged down with them.

Like you’d expect in a true crime thing, teleplayist Shelley Evans throws in little bits of trivia, like that Zack dabbled in child acting. His mom says he was in a movie “directed by Spielberg’s second A.D.” Not true, but the real guy was in a TV movie called  LITTLE LOST SOULS: CHILDREN POSSESSED? Director Craig Santy worked on some documentary shows like Crime 360.

MVP in this one would have to be Gossip Girl‘s Yin Chang as ringleader Natalie. She has a very different type of charisma than Katie Chang in the other one, more domineering but still likable until she gets too controlling.

If you’re gonna see one BLING RING movie, obviously see the Coppola one. But this is a watchable enough tv movie, in the obvious “this is sort of based on a thing that really happened, isn’t that crazy” type of way.

* * *

ADDITIONAL READING AND VIEWING:

Here’s the original Vanity Fair article that the new movie credits as its basis

and here’s a second-hand video of Alexis Neiers (who inspired Emma Watson’s character) trying to call the author, Nancy Jo Sales, and complain about the article. It turns out her and her sisters were filming a reality series about Hollywood party girls when she got busted.

Sales also extended the article into a book, but I don’t think we have to worry about Neiers complaining about that one. It’s a book.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 at 1:30 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “The Bling Ring (2013) vs. The Bling Ring (2011) (plus Spring Breakers)”

  1. I actually went to see The Bling Ring on its opening day like when I saw Spring Breakers on its day as well. The funny thing was that I remember seeing the trailer for The Bling Ring attached to Spring Breakers, mostly because both films were distributed by A24.

    Anyway, I thought that the movie was decent and I can say that I can never understand what leads people to do something like this. Are they fame whores? Do they want a taste of the “good life”? I also remember the same day I saw this was also the day that Dateline NBC showed a special on the real life situation of these robberies and how one of the girls changed her whole life around after all these have happened.

    One thing I didn’t like about the movie was how it ended. Yes, I know Emma Watson’s character was the most conscientious one of the bunch and that she was interviewed about what happened and that she changed. I just wish we saw the other characters and how they ended up. Yes, there was the trial and they got their sentences, but that was it.

    All I can say is that after Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, I am getting more curious about the A24 movie company. They have another movie coming out in August that I am willing to check out called The Spectacular Now. I can see that it’s different than the other two films, but I still want to check it out. I guess I am getting more into indie films.

  2. I assume that the girl that Emma Watson plays is flattered to be played by Emma Watson and misguidedly feels vindicated.

  3. A24 actually attached the bling ring trailer to the front of all spring breakers prints. Haven’t seen bling Ring yet. LOVED spring breakers

  4. Can we get some crossover stuff going on here? Spring Ring? Bling Breakers? The girls from the end of Spring Breakers head to Cali and break out the Bling Ring chicks from jail and they go on a rampage.

  5. I would have burnt Paris Hilton’s house to the fucking ground

    “Both have girls dressing and acting hyper-sexualized while exhibiting little interest in actually having sex”

    that’s true about young women these days, they love to flaunt it but God forbid they actually DO it, I wonder what the deal with that is?

  6. “I would have burnt Paris Hilton’s house to the fucking ground.”

    I hope you first check her purses for Chihuhauas!

  7. and her little dog too!

  8. E-Man – that’s not how I read Watson’s character at all. She’s the worst one. She tries to deny even being part of it, and imitates her idiot celebrity role models by talking cluelessly about charity work. Her goal in life is to be a “leader”. (These are actual quotes from the real person too.)

    Griff – well, when you put it that way it sounds horrible. You don’t know about all women’s personal lives and don’t need to. But in these two movies and I’m sure sometimes in real life they are mimicking what parts of our culture tell them women are supposed to be like. They’re accidental sex objects.

  9. Vern, the question you ponder if Hilton realizes she’s in on the joke or oblivious is one I had too. I just assumed it was the latter the whole time not giving her any credit whatsoever.

    When I first saw the trailer for this I wondered if Coppola was beneath such drivel. Why should an artist of her caliber waste her time on a piece so silly and immature. But when looking at her filmography perhaps this is all she has in her arsenal.

    All her films have all been about her powerful daddy in one way or another. Shallowly you have a rich father in the business and/or a little rich girl, who’s so unhappy with life and on the verge of wanting to end it all. But, who doesn’t otherwise have a care in the world. Basically a spoiled rotten piece of shit, who is often so depressed with such a mundane existence. Poor little rich girl and how difficult that life can be. Honey try working a blue collar job making minimum wage for a while and notice the difference than living in a four star hotel(her previous film).

    Imo, she’s very overrated but for the fact Hollywood so badly wants to have a female voice to get behind. Not to mention they love to promote legacies. She’s a two for one in that department. On paper she would be ideal for a new vision and voice about what she wants to put on film. Unfortunately it appears she just will not get out of her comfort zone. Wow what a stretch another take on how some dumb fuck, who doesn’t have a care in the world and how monotonous a vapid life can be.

    I will give her some credit though: she’s smart enough to surround herself with quality crew. Her DP’s have been top of the line.

  10. I get the desire to throw up your hands and say “oh, poor little rich girl”, but I think her films are a lot more nuanced and thoughtful than you are giving them credit for. Yeah, she deals with a lot of the same themes over and over, but I kind of like that. Who am I to dictate the kind of films she should make? Anyway, while I haven’t seen this one yet it doesn’t sound anything like the self-pitying mopefest you are describing.

    It’s funny how all this talk about “legacies” and “nepotism” only ever seems to crop up when it’s a female director. Weird.

  11. Vern – I didn’t mean to insinuate all young women, everywhere, but there does seem to be a lot of young women of a particular generation that have this weird “chaste/unchaste” attitude towards sex and I have no clue why that is

  12. oh and I SERIOUSLY doubt Paris Hilton is or ever was “in on the joke”

  13. But shouldn’t Coppola make movies about characters she can relate to? Isn’t that what artists do? Wouldn’t you call bullshit if she started making movies about guys in Boston fixing roofs for a living? Isn’t it better for someone who is familiar with these social circles to do this movie?

    answers: yes

    I can’t think of a movie she’s made that comes off as “oh, woe is me.” But she (moreso in previous movies) brings humanity to characters we don’t necessarily expect to see treated that way (Marie Antoinette!) and beauty to the mundane. To pretend her movies aren’t great because her dad directed THE GODFATHER would be kinda dumb.

  14. Did you notice that nepotism recently became the new favourite scapegoat of the internet. Man, that Michael Douglas kid can be happy that his career started a few decades earlier.

  15. If she wants to make movies about guys in Boston fixing roofs for a living, I can recommend a few guys.

  16. Amendation: “I can make some recommendations.”

  17. You know, I might need to watch it again. Now that you mention it, it’s coming back to me.

    SPOILER ALERT: I remember at first, she was all into the whole robbery thing until she got arrested and she tried to act like she was dragged into it and didn’t have any part in it. I still remember how she got her sister involved because she was small enough to fit into a doggy door.

  18. Griff: Look up the madonna/whore complex. Women get conflicting messages and are expected to be sexy and chaste at the same time. Look at teen pop idols who dress up in skimpy clothes and sing songs that are nakedly sexual, then talk about how chaste and Christian they are in interviews. It sucks, and living up to those impossible expectations can mess people up psychologically. It’s not really a generational thing, but I guess the goalposts have moved around in the past few decades.

  19. CrustaceanHate – I’ve heard that phrase before and yeah, it sucks that women get sent such mixed messages

  20. I gave up on Sofia Coppola after Marie Antoinette. I normally hate using this word because I think it’s often used incorrectly, but I really thought that movie was pretentious. In other words, the director thought the film was a lot smarter than it actually was. There wasn’t much of a point to the film beyond playing some nice hits from the 80s and dabbling in some admittedly fine cinematography. Beyond that it was a flatten on some really interesting events at the end of the 18the century, which Coppola had little to add to. Still, I really love Lost in Translation. Maybe a really strong showing will bring me back into the Sofia Coppola fan club.

  21. Rbatty – Really? I know it was popular back then to bash the soundtrack choices, but “flatten” is definately not the word I would use to describe it. (Of course I would argue there was a point to the soundtrack, but shall I waste more words on this “pretentious” film?)

  22. Wish this weren’t true, but my genie wish for contemporary cinema would be to vaporize the professional output of Sofia Coppola, the professional output of Kathryn Bigelow post-2007, and the career of Lena Dunham.

    As a feminist, it feels kinda horrible to say these things, but the truth is that ^these^ are the 3 individuals I most despise in modern cinema/tv (and also I wouldn’t mind permanently expelling the work of Miranda July, though she seems more benign-ish than the worst of the worst.). I’m no misogynist; this is just how it is.

    I mean, I guess Michael Bay’s work lately is as bad as these ladies’ movies/shows, and I’d be cool killing his career too, but he at least gave us that awesome TRANNI3S flight-bat-suit scene and that part where the building is falling over and that “We will kill them all” Optimus-with-a-shotgun bit.

    I hate THE BLING RING. I hate everything about it.

    I hate the article on which it’s based.
    I hate its cast.
    I super-hate its director.
    I hate its flippant style. I hate its serious style. I hate its accidentally-on-purpose flippancy. I hate its accidentally-on-purpose seriousness.
    I hate its attitude toward drunk driving, and, worse, I hate its attitude toward not caring about drunk driving.
    I hate real-life Paris Hilton, and I hate THE BLING RING’s version of Paris Hilton, which are deliberately disgustingly interchangeable.
    I hate its depictions of criminal convictions, and I hate its sub-90-minutes dismissal & faux-epic, faux-journalistic encompassment of criminal convictions. I hate, I hate, I hate.

    Decent soundtrack, though.
    And that lil shot where the handcuffed dude glances briefly & longingly at his cops-confiscated pink high heels is funny & compelling — Paris Hilton has big shoes to fill, and you can’t fill those shoes, you faker/burglar.

  23. RRA – I suppose my chief problem with Marie Antoinette is that the film itself did not know what to do with the title character. Now, I saw this movie in theaters so it’s been a while, but I’ll try to explain in more detail. Early in the film Marie comments on how ridiculous the procedures of the court are. But it’s not clear why she would say this. She’s a foreigner, but otherwise not much of an outsider to aristocratic decorum. And then this comment is quickly forgotten, and she seems completely okay with court life from here on out. There’s never a moment where she comes around and fully accepts courtly conduct. So I’m not even sure why they have the character comment on the absurdity of court life, unless they wanted her to be the audience surrogate at that point and then completely forget this aspect of her character.

    Another scene that I remember really hating is the one where she’s talking to her daughter (I believe). And she says she will sell some jewelry in order to help those poor people of France. This seems like a rather offensive and inadequate defense of the real Marie Antoinette. We’re supposed to think that she did care about the well being of others, but she was just too naive about the larger problems to really do anything. In other words, ignorance should excuse any inaction on her part. But here’s the thing: I don’t think ignorance is an excuse for reprehensible behavior. For me, this movie exemplified the chief criticism people have of Coppola. She makes movies that ask us to feel bad for the rich and powerful. (I didn’t have this problem with the characters in Lost in Translation, for whatever reason).

    I remember reading about the film being booed at Cannes, and at first I thought it was just the audience at Cannes being the audience at Cannes. But after watching the movie, I saw how potentially offensive this film is. This analogy doesn’t exactly hold up, but I think it’s helpful. Imagine if she made the same movie, using the same techniques, but the subject matter was Eva Braun. I think many more people would see why the film was offensive.

  24. I don’t agree with that interpretation of MARIE ANTOINETTE or Mouth’s of the entire filmography. I say Coppola is clearly trying to show human empathy for the characters instead of making them monsters, but also they’re supposed to be clueless idiots. In SOMEWHERE, BLADE’s Stephen Dorff plays a doofus who has obviously fucked up as a person and is trying to do better. There’s no request for you to forgive him, just to relate to him as a fellow person. I think she sees Antoinette and the Bling Ringers similar, although probly likes them less.

    A comparison in another director’s work might be Wes Anderson. Royal Tenenbaum is clearly an asshole. It’s not a “defense” of him when he actually does something nice, it’s just another facet of his character.

  25. The Original... Paul

    July 19th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    RBatty – I don’t think the film “Lost in Translation” asked us to feel bad for the characters, which is why you didn’t have that problem with it. If they’d sat around moping at the screen for two hours about how they were regretting the life’s choices they’d made, then yes, it would be intolerable. But these two had a lot of fun in that movie. That was the whole point, wasn’t it?

    And Mouth – I can’t comment about Coppola’s other works because I haven’t seen them yet, but if you seriously think that “Lost in Translation” should be stricken from the face of the earth, then I don’t know what we’re going to do. I feel like that guy in the novel “Who Goes There?” (the one Carpenter’s “The Thing” is based on) when he discovers that either he or one other guy HAS to be a monster. I genuinely cannot see how we’re part of the same species. You convinced me that I wasn’t giving “Sucker Punch” nearly enough credit, granted. And I went to see “Martha Marcy May Marlene” on your recommendation and loved it. So we have some common ground at times.

    But now… I just don’t know. I can see absolutely why people would dislike the main characters of “Lost in Translation” or why they might find the “unsatisfied wealthy people” thing annoying, putting them off the movie as a whole… but it’s still the finest example of the visual art of cinema that I have ever seen. Seriously, the only thing I can come up with that even comes close to it is “The Usual Suspects”, or “Citizen Kane” if you want the tired-as-hell-but-still-relevant example. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for movies that find incredibly inventive ways to use glass / mirrors, I don’t know. (Pun intended!)

  26. It’s a personal preference thing, a matter of incurable anathema in my case.
    No matter how cursorily competent the filmatism (the one-take wide shot burglary was cool),
    no matter the ability of others to engage with the stories & characters and commentate on What It All Means as though the movies spring from a gifted artist and not from an unrepentantly privileged, willfully vacuous elitist,
    I am unable to look at Sofia Coppola’s oeuvre and see anything other than boring explorations of slightly different versions of the story of rich, pampered yuppies going to the emergency room to be treated for a mosquito bite.

  27. The Original Paul – I think that’s part of it. We’re asked to be more sympathetic towards Marie Antoinette. Coppola is pushing back against centuries of bad press. But it just doesn’t work for me. Part of the reason is just the time period. Marie Antoinette is a special case, separate from the work of Lena Dunham, Wes Anderson, and other works by Coppola. This is a time period where people were literally starving to death. The aristocracy had made a complete mess of the country. And amidst all of this, Coppola wants us to feel bad for Marie Antoinette? I actually don’t mind movies that document the lives of the upper middle class and wealthy. Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors (and to be fair, he’s conscious of class issues, which plays a huge role in Rushmore). I liked Dunham’s Tiny Furniture (I’ve never seen Girls). And, of course, I like Lost in Translation. But for me Marie Antoinette is a bridge too far.

    Part of it also has to do with the experience of watching Marie Antoinette. I was really into Lost in Translation, and I was looking forward to Coppola’s next movie. The trailers for Marie Antoinette were fantastic. They suggested a film that borrowed heavily from John Hughes, was critical of the French court, and that drew parallels to the modern day. This didn’t materialize for me. It was a huge let down, which probably affects my take on the movie. In a way, it’s similar to 300, a movie I was really excited to see, went out to watch the day it came out, and was deeply disappointed. But I shouldn’t let this affect my view of Coppola’s entire body of work. I need to check out Somewhere eventually, and maybe I’ll even watch Bling Ring.

  28. Mouth, I have a question, if you hate Sofia Coppola that much, why did you see this movie?

  29. Girlfriend’s call. I can’t say no to that face.

  30. > It’s funny how all this talk about “legacies” and “nepotism” only ever seems to crop up when it’s a female director. Weird.

    It’s especially weird because I remember the terms coming up when CHRONICLE came out. Ebert lavished praise on Max Landis, and said something like “John Landis may be his dad, but you can’t inherit writing talent” or something. Too much praise in anticipation that there’s going to be a movement to knock him for his famous family, but it never really happened.

    Now Landis is absurdly heralded as the champion of the new young talent in sci fi, because he did a mediocre but forgettable teen superhero movie, while people are still asking if Sofia Coppola is a good enough director to have been famous without the family name. I guess she should have gone the Nic Cage route and named herself Sofia Catwoman or something.

    (PS: Mouth, what’s with the pot shots (apropos of nothing) at transgendered folks? It’s really unsettling, I noticed it in the Skyfall comments too. You seem like a normally thoughtful, knowledgable guy, I wouldn’t expect to see you use the trans* crowd as a punching bag so often).

  31. I agree with that spambot too, it’s about time somebody finally had the balls to talk about The Bling Ring (2013) vs.
    The Bling Ring (2011) (plus Spring Breakers).

  32. It’s an interesting comparison. I actually feel bad not liking Max Landis because I like his dad’s movies so much. But I challenge anyone to listen to an interview with him and not want to find a toilet big enough to flush him down. He’s hyperactive and extremely fond of himself and prone to launch into long pitches of stupid ideas that he’s convinced are brilliant. For example one where he thinks he invented the age old 007 nerd idea that James Bond is a code name and the different actors who played him are different characters and dude what if Connery came back and he was the villain OH MY GOD I JUST BLEW YOUR MIND.

    CHRONICLE is not terrible and I’m open to him turning out to later have some kind of talent, but he sure hasn’t proven it like Coppola has. Exhibit B: Max Brooks. Never heard a single person give a shit who his dad is. Also has not achieved anything on the level of LOST IN TRANSLATION.

    But to be honest I haven’t seen alot of attacks on Coppola like that. In my experience most people who know who she is tend to like her movies.

  33. Is my abbreviation for TRANSFORMERS 3 really that offensive, Tugboat? (I just hate typing out the word “transformers,” since it’s such a childish, nerdy word.)

    And is my crack about Sam Mendes’s testicular toxicity & SKYFALL’s misogyny being construed as a problematic attitude toward the trans set? Didn’t realize it could be interpreted that way. It was meant in quite the opposite fashion. I’ll try to do better. (FWIW, I’ve always been quite active in liberal causes and a supporter of LGBTQIA rights, so I appreciate all reminders that even accidentally subtly problematic diction should be reconsidered, reconfigured, or eliminated.)

  34. The Original... Paul

    July 21st, 2013 at 8:42 am

    This being the girlfriend who keeps getting mistaken for the girl (can’t recall her name now) from “Bereavement”? Yeah, I can sympathise.

    I seriously don’t know what it is about the two of us… just when I think we are finding some common ground, you always seem to come out with something that just makes me go “whaaaat…?”

  35. Mouth — no, you’re right, it’s really not as offensive as I took it at first glance — I should have given a bit more thought before posting. It’s just frustrating to see what looks like the trans* community being the go-to butt of easy jokes.

    The SKYFALL thing bothered me quite a bit, but maybe I read it wrong. It seemed to me that you were saying that the main problem with SKYFALL was that Mendes was too feminized to do a capable job directing an action movie. Probably oversensitivity on my part.

    I feel like a dickhead now, I really took a dumb knee-jerk reaction and ran with it, sorry for bringing it up. I appreciate your thoughtful response though.

  36. Well okay, then, Tugboat, I can go back to comfortably being the OutlawVern Community’s #1 Hedwig & The Angry Inch superfan. (Coming to Broadway next spring! Starring Dr. Horrible! Fuck yeah!) Keep keeping me on my toes, though.

    Paul, I’m sorry I can’t get onboard the Sofia C-Train. A lot of smart people are praising THE BLING RING, so whatever. I refuse to get past the fact that it’s a tragically perfect manifestation of the real-cast’s dreams come true, that somewhere there’s a gaggle of rich ≈21 year old asshole ex-convicts who just had their rich teenage assholery glorified in cinema form, premiered at the world’s premiere film festival, and celebrated by a world of cinematic tastemakers.

    The THE BLING RING phenomenon

    (and I know I’m probably being over-sensitive to this, and possibly willfully misinterpreting the film’s gist to some extent b/c I so despise Sofia Coppola’s work)

    is like if MARGIN CALL suddenly made Lehman Brothers chiefs and JP Morgan executives into rock stars that everyone was supposed to be intrigued by and drawn to. Can you fucking imagine? Did MARGIN CALL make you want to go out and ask a Bear Sterns Board of Directors honcho, “OMG, who are you wearing today? Can you pause for a photo?”

    If Roger Clemens isn’t allowed to be a role model for young athletes after we learned he used steroids, then why the fuck should we celebrate the vacuous materialistic glamourization-fetishization “fame” of little untalented punks who literally stole their way into that “fame” (which is now real fame, no quote marks, thanks to Sofia fucking Coppola)?

  37. Also, for full cognitive dissonance effect, I feel like stating that I’ve always liked Joel McHale and always loved THE SOUP.

  38. Wait – you thought the movie *celebrated* these people? Or are you just saying that negative attention is still attention?

  39. There’s no doubt that the *marketing* of THE BLING RING celebrated them, yes, as well as most of the reviews, which I am confident reflects Sofia C’s odiously glitzy intent. It’s all designer sunglasses, flashing lights, pop beats, and night club revelry.

    Did you see any somber shots of the dude in an orange jumpsuit in the previews? Any bloody noses from too-much cocaine in the promotional shots? Any mugshots?

    Yes, the movie ultimately makes them out to be idiotic assholes, more or less, but so does 95% of reality television with its subjects, and has that stopped Honey Boo Boo [& fam] from becoming a superstar who can demand 6-figure speaking fees for the rest of her life? What makes the Bling Ring better than Honey Boo Boo? Why should I hate the former less than the latter? Why should one be considered a scourge on Western Civilization and the other be considered just some interesting film fodder to be compared to Harmony Korine’s near-masterpiece?

    We all think Y.K. Kim

    and maybe also Steven Seagal, to some extent — sorry, bud, but even you have joked about him not being able to kick very high and using ADR to mask his mumbling refusal to speak intelligibly during shooting —

    are kind of a joke, but we love their cinematic efforts despite & partially because of their obvious failings, because the personalities & goodwill built up as a result of our history/understanding of those personalities overwhelm the filmatistic shortcomings. They are fun celebrities because they have proven themselves before, have institutionalized themselves into our understanding of “fun with these celebrities.”

    THE BLING RING undoubtedly celebrates celebrity worship, and, worse, recursively revels in it, and, worser, is unashamedly shallow & unearned, and, worsest, is being praised for this!

    That’s both the claim to critical acclaim that it’s getting from so many critics and the film’s worst sin (for explication of which I refer you back to my brilliant MARGIN CALL comparison).

  40. Do you think THE BLING RING is not celebrating Kirsten Dunst in her 2-second cameo?

    Do you think Kirsten Dunst, Sofia Coppola veteran, is receiving negative attention here?

  41. I definitely doubt your claim that it undoubtedly celebrates celebrity worship. I mean, it is very, very clear that it’s making fun of them, including in the marketing if that’s important (“what did Lindsay say?”). You could argue that it’s not mean enough but since Coppola’s strength is her empathy for her characters I think the weakness is that they’re too horrible for her to whole-heartedly embrace.

    I do like SPRING BREAKERS better but if you think BLING RING is celebrating its idiots then SPRING BREAKERS must be too, right?

  42. re: Kirsten Dunst. But all she does is walk by in a club, and we know her from her body of work, not from being a celebrity. How is that comparable?

  43. For whatever it’s worth, everybody I know who is actually into the whole celebrity-worship / fashion-fetish scene did find the movie to be a celebration of that subculture and not even a slight condemnation of it. If anything, it seems like it solidified these peoples’ status as folk heroes.

    I don’t think the movie was supposed to be a celebration of these people, but I don’t think it really matters. It’d be pretty surprising if anybody who really needed to learn a lesson from these people actually took it away from the movie.

  44. Mouth I gotta say you’re coming at this from the wrong perspective.

    Tugboat’s comment put it in perspective for me: “It’d be pretty surprising if anybody who really needed to learn a lesson from these people actually took it away from the movie.” It’s certainly not the film’s office to teach people lessons; and certainly it would be disingenuous for Ms. Coppola to be chumming it up with her celebrity friends like Dunst on the one hand, and passing down judgement on the sort of celebrity fixation she depicts in the film as if she stands totally apart from it. The Dunst cameo is important as a clarification of where she (Coppola) stands in all this; an admission that she (Coppola) is a part of this world.

    I’m not going to make the argument that your ability to agree with a film’s philosophy should not impact your judgement of the film’s quality, because I react and judge the same way (we might have to have a conversation about Pascal Laugier and how you can support his films if you have such ethical scruples).

    Coppola’s film has a lot to offer someone who thinks this celebrity fetish culture is fucked up.

    When Rebecca gazes into Lindsay Lohan’s mirror and applies perfume and ascends into a state of slow-motion ecstasy, it is perhaps something that Rachel Lee (the real Rebecca) could look at and say “oh man Coppola totally gets what it’s like to be me”, but it’s something I look at and feel totally horrified, similar to Ellen Burstyn’s fast/slo-mo visit to the doctor in Requiem for a Dream utterly bent on speed: a glimpse into a bent mind. Unlike the sympathy you feel for the drug addicts in Requiem, though, Rebecca is a truly reptilian sociopath and the film’s portrayal of her is utterly vindictive. (others can fill me in on how Coppola’s ‘we’re-all-human’ sympathy extends towards this character)

    The drunk driving incident. It’s an empirical truth that any well-connected lawyer can turn a DUI charge into a soon-forgotten and boasted-of inconvenience for three or four grand. Does the film need to add Coppola’s voice over saying “AND I THINK THAT THIS IS WRONG AND SOCIETY SHOULD CHANGE THIS” in order to meet your approval, sir?

    Well luckily she gives you the next best thing: Immediately after the blonde girl’s shockingly dismissive appraisal of the repercussions from her DUI, we see a scene of Mark and Rebecca driving under the influence. The scene is shot in precisely the same manner as the scene that led up to the car crash: we can’t see what’s going on immediately around the car, creating that ROPE-like tension of needing to know what’s happening around the frame and not being afforded that luxury. Rebecca is failing to keep her eyes on the road in much the same manner as their blonde friend did, which caused the crash. Headlights materialize behind Rebecca, signalling the approach of perpendicular traffic and…. nothing happens. But the point is clear: they learned NOTHING from blonde girl’s experiences, and the only reason they didn’t eat shit was because fate rolled the dice differently. It’s a rather terrifying scene.

    Now. Your concern about the film feeding into the fame fantasies of the real life Bling Ringers is a concern I felt myself while watching the film. I can’t imagine it having an impact on my opinion of the film’s quality. I could give a fuck how the film may or may not affect somebody else. I’m a selfish filmgoer: Coppola made this movie for me to watch, and I’ll take what I can get from it. But frankly it’s far from her best film and I wonder why she chose to explore an incident that already has had SO MUCH media devoted. Had the film reached the level of transcendence I have always looked for, and failed to find, ever since her first movie, all would have been forgiven, but aside from a few nice scenes I found it to be simply okay.

    THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. Nobody talks about that movie. One of the few films I’ve ever seen that I consider to be virtually perfect. How you could possibly apply your whole “rich people with mosquito bites theory” to VIRGIN SUICIDES, I can’t even imagine.

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