The Bling Ring ★★½

This could have been a brilliant commentary on the nature of fame and the aspirations of the (North) American teenager. It could have contained fascinating insight into the mind and motivations of the affluent-but-bored suburban brat. It could have been a movie about the very truth of what is perceived as 'valuable'.

The Bling Ring, unfortunately, is none of these things.

Save for a few expositional interview-style moments with the male lead (Israel Broussard as Marc), we get almost no understanding of the thoughts or driving factors in why the film's characters actually do what they do.

The cast is unexceptional, to say the least, but on this note I will lend the film some flexibility, as their seemingly unscripted delivery of lines and actions serves to paint the characters with a very real brush. The challenge in this approach to character portrayal - and perhaps especially with teen actors - is that there is a very real danger of having too few moments of clarity, too few opportunities for a very real connection between a character's emotions and the empathies of his audience. And such is the case here, where there's very little hook to grab us or pull us along.

Like all of her films, Sofia Coppola presents the narrative with a voyeuristic detachment. But where it actually accentuated the sense of loneliness and withdrawal in Lost in Translation, her directing style does a disservice here in further separating (especially non-teen) audiences from the protagonists. I am no more informed about the characters' rationales or impulsions than I am in simply guessing.

Where the film could have explored the underlying compulsions to be part of haute-couture, be recognized as one of the famous, or just be accepted by peers, this film barely scratches the surface. Because it does none of these things to any real degree, it instead serves as another MTV product simply following a set of characters with cameras and documenting their strange behaviour. And I don't think that was the point at all, which unfortunately means the film is an utter failure.