Bling Ring, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +4

Content: -3

Katie Chang, Emma Watson, Isreal Broussard, Clair Julien. Crime drama. Written & directed by Sophia Coppola.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the Internet to track celebrities' whereabouts in order to rob their homes. Caring only about themselves, with the possible exception of the few with whom they share iPhone reception, they smugly go about their nefarious deeds believing they have the right to take from those who have much. In all their wisdom, they use their cell phones to photograph themselves at their victims’ homes, and then tell fellow classmates about their brazen break-ins. Oh, that was clever.

PREVIEW REVIEW: When I first began reviewing films 26 years ago, I saw everything that was projected. But this year I cut back on the amount of R-rated films I viewed for the purpose of critiquing. Lately I have only wanted to check out R films I thought might contain something of substance amid the R content. Certainly the work of Sophia Coppola deserves attention even when they fall into that ratings category. I’ve been a fan of her artistic nature ever since Lost in Translation, with its award-worthy performance by Bill Murray. The Bling Ring is also a film that satisfies artistically and socially. (Now, before you take that as an endorsement, please read the content before you decide to support it.)

Viewing the good-looking teens with a proclivity toward self-destructive activity (partying with amoral adults and using cocaine, pot, pain-killers and alcohol as if they were substances as harmless as chewing gum), I feared copycat behavior by adolescents who found the film’s characters to be hip. Will those underage who see the R-rated movie take the film’s retributive Third Act warning seriously, or only want to emulate the rebellious adventurers?

Ms. Coppola has a true eye for composition. She sets up a shot that speaks visually with little need for dialogue to support the scene. Two examples will not leave my mind. One of the party-girl/burglars finds a gun during a break-in. In a fearless, hopped-up state, she toys around with the weapon, playfully pointing it at her fellow reivers; all the while we in the audience are gripping the armrests in anticipation of the big bang. It is one of the most unnerving movie moments I can remember.

The other visual that remains etched in my mind has to do with one of the girls at breakfast with her parents. The frame is filled with family members sitting or standing in different areas of the kitchen, absorbed in their own little world. As a distant police siren grows nearer, the family dog reacts before any of the humans. Slowly the teenage thief looks up from her cereal bowl, a realization creeping in that her world is about to change. Almost no dialogue occurs other than the pet’s bark. Everything about the family relationship is said via that setup. Suddenly we understand why this girl and the other high school bandits are as they are – soulless. Their self-absorbed universe is filled with electronic gizmos that have helped replace true relations and communication.

This film reminds us that the culture that molds and influences our youth is straying further and further from the spiritual element that completes the mental and physical components of our makeup. Coppola’s characters are manipulative and as quick with a lie as a good comedian is with a quip. Their social nature comes across as disturbingly aloof, suggesting a psychopathic tendency and as cold and bleak as a starless night. Whether or not the director is attempting to suggest we need to turn to biblical principles when raising children, for me, that’s the lesson learned via her amusing and frightful exposé.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
American Zoetrope

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Several crude sexual remarks; these teens girls call each other “bitch.”

Obscene Language: The film is peppered with crude and obscene language, with both the s- and f-words well represented.

Profanity: The expression “oh my God” is uttered countless times, but I caught no other irreverent use of God’s name or Christ’s.

Violence: A girl points a loaded pistol at her friends, clowning around; the gun goes off.

Sex: t is implied that several of the teens are having sex, but we don’t see any graphic examples of sexual activity.

Nudity: No nudity, but the girls often dress provocatively, especially when going out to party at an adult club; how do they get in the club and are served alcohol – beats me.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: These kids never met a narcotic they didn’t like – pot, cocaine, pain killers, alcohol, they imbibe them all throughout the film.

Other: None

Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Though rated R, I suspect the film will be alluring to teens

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