The Bling Ring ★★★★

Somewhere deconstructed the mythos of celebrity; The Bling Ring deconstructs the capitalist society that creates and lifts up that mythos. And both films are almost totally free of condescension or moral judgment, which surely has something to do with the writer-director growing up in that culture while still apparently maintaining a healthy distance from it. It's striking how much Coppola clearly likes these teenagers and is not particularly ambiguous about what's steered them wrong; abuse and neglect are offscreen but they're unmistakable in leaving the holes that the kids fill up with opportunism that, despite being on the wrong side of the law, isn't that different from the motivating factors that drive anyone, celebs included, to escape from the world. And if seclusion from "ordinary" society is one of her key themes (which makes me hope she makes a straight thriller someday, and no, The Beguiled wasn't one), the more pressing one is the search for meaningful identity -- and while all of her films address this movingly, in some ways this is the most touching of all when it captures a feeling of genuine community, and a sense of belonging and tolerance among a group of outcasts, however misguided they may be. On this watch I thought more than ever that Coppola, while she may have played nice enough with Paris Hilton to get permission to shoot in her house, calls into question whether the members of the Ring really are so morally inferior to those they rob. The gang's aspirations are all empty, but they're also inherited -- visit my website to learn more, etc. -- and the moments of blissful rapport and escape, "outside of society," do have meaning that none of them seem to consciously notice. Marc mentions America's obsession with Bonnie & Clyde-style heroics with feigned disapproval, but really, better Bonnie & Clyde than TMZ (and if not better, then at least more palpably human).