The Bling Ring (2013)

The Bling RingRelease Date: June 21, 2013Director: Sofia CoppolaStars: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma WatsonRuntime: 90 min.

“The Bling Ring” completes the trio of 2013 social commentaries on the stupidity of the human race. The first is “Spring Breakers”, Harmony Kormine’s reality check for today’s youth, and the way that their decisions on their spraaaang breaaaak vacation will have consequences. The second is Michael Bay’s true-crime movie, “Pain & Gain” that expressed how far people are willing to go to achieve the American dream. I love both of those movies, because they’re entertaining and well-written. The same can be said about Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring”, even if it is my least favourite of the three.

Inspired by actual events (occuring between 2008 and 2009), a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.

“The Bling Ring” highlights the stupidity of some younger people and their obsession with fame, and their want to experience the celebrity lifestyle. This movie is fascinating. It shows the stupidity of people because the characters who do the robbing fail to wear gloves, so they’re just smothering their fingertips all over the house. Smart thinking, right? They also use all the slang of today’s youth – grimy (meaning dirty), lates (instead of later), and totes (instead of totally) – which isn’t exactly an ode to the intelligence of my generation, but I guess it is how we talk. (I, for one, try my hardest to keep my language formal – even if I am guilty of dropping the occasional ‘Just chillin’.) But that’s just the point of these characters: They’re dumb.

One shows enough remorse, but they’re dumb for stealing merchandise, and not knowing how to keep their mouths shout about it. I guess they’re clever enough to steal merchandise the celebrities wouldn’t notice is missing, for awhile. That also just indicates how off the wall consumer society today is, and how much we own that we don’t actually use. It’s also insane how everything is on the internet now, and it’s surprising how easy one could find a celebrities’ home by just searching for it on Google. The kids aren’t the only stupid ones; as it’s truly hard to believe how many celebrities leave their doors unlocked, and don’t bother to use an alarm when they’re out of town.

Even though most of these characters are stupid, they are intriguing. Rebecca (Katie Chang) is the sociopathic ring leader of the group. Mark (Israel Broussard) is the best written of the group, because he’s one of the only almost appealing characters of the gang of criminals. He’s a trendy guy who knows the difference between Muumuu and Prada. (What the f*ck is a Muumuu?!). He’s only ever found one true best friend. He’s unfortunate enough that the one person is Rebecca, and that is his motivation for going along with the crimes.

The real scene-stealer here is Emma Watson, who is hilarious as Nicki. Her performance is truly impressive, and you cannot hear a trace of a British accent in her prissy, stuck-up, L.A. dialect.  The director, Sofia Coppola, really knows how to get laughs out of the audience. One scene has Watson saying “I wanna rob”, and it immediately cuts to a scene of her saying “I just went along with it” (or something like that). It’s such a simple, but effectively genuine way to get a big laugh out of the audience. It’s also funny Nicki is being interviewed, and has to constantly tell her Mom (Leslie Mann) to shut up because it’s her interview. (Her Mom seems to just love fame as much as her daughter, because included in her home-schooling curriculum is a class called ‘Celebrity Role Models’.)

The casting is truly spot-on, because the primary cast is mostly made up of great, but generally unknown, actors (Katie Chang; Claire Julien; Israel Broussard in his first leading role). The casting is clever because well-known celebrities playing fame-obsessed characters seems far-fetched. Leslie Mann is a well-known actress, but she isn’t part of the group. Your eyes might go to Taissa Farmiga, because she’s a great performer who steals a few scenes, and she is a spitting image of her much older sister, Vera Farmiga. (Was anyone else reminded of “Spring Breakers” when she had that gun in her hands?) Emma Watson is inarguably the best known of the primary gang, but her character is supposed to be played by a celebrity, as some of the character’s lines are delivered like a true celebrity. Plus, she’s only a supporting character and she’s freaking hysterical. (If her a character like hers really did “rule a country one day”, I’d be so done with the human race.) Your eyes will probably keep going to Emma Watson because she’s as great as ever, and her character is well-written. Even though she is stuck up (that’s the point of her), she’s very amusing. She believes in Karma and believes this is a learning experience for her, and she seems destined for celebrity life.

Ms. Sofia Coppola really knows how to handle this screenplay. Her style, the cinematography, the movie’s sense of realism, and the energy makes the movie more appealing than it might be in any other director’s hands. I dig her style, and this is my first experience with the director. Although, I’m not sure how entertaining I’d call one specific scene with Mark trying on lipstick and dancing in front of a camera for a minute or two. If it were Emma Watson doing that instead, I would not be thinking that the young man would grow up to be Buffalo Bill from “The Silence of the Lambs”. (Seriously, you’ll be waiting for him to put on a robe, turn around and say, “I’d so f*ck me.”) This film is a fascinating true-crime tale, and its analysis of obsession with celebrity life and fame is endlessly intriguing. The memorable performances and the film’s energy makes me want to watch it again in the future. It’s well-written, often compelling, and a great adaptation of the article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”. (What the hell are Louboutins?!)

Score80/100

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Spring Breakers (2013)

Spring Breakers

Release Date: March 22, 2013 (initial wide release). Director: Harmony Korine. Stars: James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez. Runtime: 94 min.

It’s a movie that gets so much better after you think about it quite a bit.

Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) are four friends anxious to let loose during spring break, but they lack sufficient funds to go on vacation. They hold up a restaurant for some quick cash, and they travel to St. Petersburg, Florida, in pursuit of a good time. They then find themselves in jail (for partying too hard, not robbing the restaurant) and are soon bailed out by a rapper, drug and arms dealer, Alien (James Franco), who introduces them into a criminal world that is both influential and intriguing for a group of girls who are still figuring out their path in life.

This is difficult to place into one basket, as it’s sometimes funny,  strange, violent, and rather brilliant. I think. It’s also a movie that isn’t afraid to make a statement. This examines the moral codes and the social strata of today’s youth through its four primary characters.

It expresses that today’s female youth aren’t difficult to manipulate and influence if you can give them something more exciting than their everyday routine. It’s also a reality check for the youth of today because those who go on spring break and party hard must realize that the vacation is a week, and they’ll have to get back to reality sooner than later. They shouldn’t immerse themselves into a path that is completely irrational. It also explores the consequences of these crazy decisions, in a rather intelligent fashion. Though, this is merely my own interpretation (among many other interpretations) of what  Korine is trying to say. The feature gets the point across fairly well, and it certainly isn’t as mindless as party brand TV show Jersey Shore or the moronic Project X (even though teen partying is the only similarity).

The character of Faith really contrasts the abnormal behaviour of the other girls, as she is more reserved and not as vulnerable to crazy corruption such as this. The character represents the better choices of youth, and Mr. Korine writes her in rather brilliantly, and his style is easy to love (even though casual, mainstream moviegoers may find it way too different and weird).

The film is very bright and highly-stylized. The cinematography opts for style by going with usual montage-esque filmmaking, and a few of the sequences feel like entertaining filler for the runtime. There are entertaining sequences, compelling sequences and compelling-but-strange sequences. Some of the oddest-yet-compelling scenes are the most memorable of the film. There’s a lot of tits and ass bouncing around throughout the feature, and some sequences are repetitive (one Girls Gone Wild-esque scene, in particular, gets shown two or three times). There are a few Britney Spears-related sequences where one is compelling and funny in a strange way (where Franco sings a bit of “Everytime” at his piano, and the girls dance around with assault rifles, and then it becomes background noise to a violent montage), and the other, to the song “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (if memory serves me correctly) is strange but rather fascinating.

They’re singing along and then Brit and Candy are telling Cotty (who was the getaway driver) and Faith (who stayed home) exactly how the restaurant robbery went down. They robbed the store with a hammer and a squirt gun, and they’re discussing how they got all up in the people’s faces saying, “Give me all your money, mother fucker!” Their behaviour seems completely irrational and it could really make an audience member uncomfortable, but it is oddly compelling, and no matter how hard anyone might try, it is impossible to look away. It also shows that these two specific girls were slightly off their rockers before they even meet Alien, and him giving them real guns doesn’t help their seemingly psychopathic behaviour in the slightest…

Some of Korine’s other creative choices also aren’t stellar. During a scene when Alien is getting prepared for a critical occasion, there’s a line of dialogue repeated over and over as background noise, and it isn’t very interesting (it almost gets tedious, almost). Also, sometimes when a new scene starts, the sound of a gun cocks and it gets old after the third time, so it’s incredibly pleasing that it happens about ten freaking times…

James Franco is the funniest part of the film as an insane, creepy, grill-wearing, violent, tatted-up gangster called Alien. He’s crazy but he’s probably cool enough to hang out with E.T. His charms draw the girls deeper into his insane world, and into his delusions (this guy calls his bed his space ship). His character only seems to be influencing the girls a little, because they’re (Brit and Candy, in particular) take plenty of insane liberties of their own. Franco has a blast playing Alien, and his performance is really one of the best parts of the film, even though he is a little crazy. When his character’s behaviour is challenged by the craziest of the spring breakers, we must question who the hell is influencing who, here… This is part of what makes Korine’s writing so brilliant at times. There isn’t a ton of comedy, and some of the biggest laughs come when Alien is, in fact, acting cuckoo, making funny gangster faces, or during the bizarre yet compelling Britney Spears sequence where he’s at the piano.

The bikini gals are also good performers (mostly just Benson, Hudgens and Gomez), and their performances are probably their finest hours, even though their previous roles in films have hardly been memorable. Selena Gomez has the smallest amount of screen time, and she’s really the representation of innocence in youth. Rachel Korine is the weakest of the bunch, and it seems this is a breakout role for her, and she might start to get typecast as the slut because she is not afraid to get fully nude. Former Disney star Vanessa Hudgens and the Pretty Little Liars star Ashley Benson, do enough R-rated actions in this film to allow them not to be typecast again. Though, that might be their goal and they might be trying to lose that innocent girl image, and if that’s the case, they achieve it with neon bikinis on. Their violent and abnormal roles represent an insane, irrational, curious party girl. I hope these roles turn out to be good career choices for all the girls, even if it prevents Hudgens or Benson (maybe even Gomez, even though her role compared to theirs is as innocent as a pony) from appearing on the Disney channel ever again.

Spring Breakers is a well-written, controversial, ultra-stylized, bright film that will divide audiences, especially the mainstream viewers who aren’t used Korine’s tendency to insert a ton of style, and are expecting something along the lines of Project X. Thankfully, the only similarity to Project X is teenage partying.

It’s a film that has a near must-see status because it’s fascinating and you can stand on either side of the spectrum, you might hate it or love it. You may hate it at first, but if you think about it a lot more, you might end up loving it. One thing is certain: It’s a thought-provoking, un-for-fucking-gettable experience.

Score75/100