The Bling Ring (2013)

Poster for The Bling Ring

Either this movie doesn’t have much of a point, or it’s so obvious that it hardly seems worth stating. Or, of course, I didn’t get it. This is based on the true-life story of a bunch of teenagers in Calabasas, California who went on a spree of breaking into celebrity houses and stealing stuff. The names have been somewhat changed, and for all I know incidents have been changed as well, although a quick glance at Wikipedia indicates that the celebrities victimized by the gang are the same as in real life.

The film isn’t very interested in getting into the heads of the kids, although we do get some context via interviews with a Vogue writer, which provides a kind of framework. The kids are all from well-off families and are attending an alternative high school for students who have gotten into trouble. They are troubled teens, but the trouble mostly seems to be numb affluence and inattentive or flaky parents. They drink, smoke pot, do drugs. They actually reminded me to some extent of my middle class high school friends in Salem, Oregon.

The reason for their thievery seems to be consumerism. They all read fashion magazines and dream of owning fancy clothes. They want to party like Paris Hilton. So the obvious point here is that film is a parody of consumerism. There’s also a half-hearted satire of New Age religion and positive thinking. Some of this is funny, but it mostly seems just as vapid as the thing it is satirizing. Is the vapidity intentional? There’s a level at which the film shows the criminal antics of the kids as a lot of fun. Visually it looks great, and there’s a seductive aspect to that. The sound track is pumping, there’s a nice party vibe until it all goes wrong.

Maybe I’m the wrong audience for the film, because the fact that we shouldn’t aspire to live like Paris Hilton is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. The fact that positive-thinking can turn this empty exercise into a “spiritual journey” doesn’t seem incisive to me, but maybe the stinger is that it allows the kids to shirk responsibility for their actions in the end. None of it really seems to matter; it’s all just different types of conspicuous consumption.

To its credit the film doesn’t really seem to be arguing for importance. It mostly feels like a comedy, and really less of a satire than a winking shaggy dog story.

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