NOW PLAYING AT ART THEATRE: ‘The Bling Ring’

Perhaps I would have liked The Bling Ring better if I knew going in that it’s based on a true story, a 2008–’09 burglary spree by SoCal teenagers hitting the Hollywood Hills homes of mostly-worthless celebrities (e.g., Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, some chick who was on The Hills). But I doubt it. Writer/director Sofia Coppola seems to have presumed that her subject’s factuality will make her film inherent interesting. Big mistake.

Usually this is where I’d give you a run-down of the plot, but I’ve already revealed to you just about the entire film. But let me give it the old college try: Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid at school, where Becca (Katie Chang) befriends him for no particular reason (Coppola has delivered a pretty paltry script), although once together they certainly show a similar vapidity and greed. Soon they’re burgling unlocked cars, then a friend’s house. Before long they’re on to the houses of out-of-town celebrities, and they bring a few of their similarly conscienceless and acquisitive pals in on the game.

From there the film is little more than: break-in, ingest drugs, post pictures on Facebook, break-in, ingest drugs, post pictures on Facebook. There’s no character development—never mind anyone onscreen that you want to see do anything but drop dead—and the only thing approaching social commentary is showing us that there’s a culture of selfish superficiality and excess in the world. I needed 90 minutes of uninspired filmmaking to tell me that?

The Bling Ring doesn’t give even the slightest indication that Coppola is the same person who made the subtle, powerful, and beautiful Lost in Translation. When the latter came out it appeared that the then-32-year-old daughter of Francis Ford Coppola was destined for great things. But it’s 10 years later, and that promise seems to have evaporated completely.

In 1986, Keanu Reeves—pre-Speed, pre-Matrix—starred in a little film called River’s Edge, which told the story of a group of teenagers so desensitized to life that they barely react when one of their friends murders another member of their circle. Despite being a work of fiction, it reveals a far more compelling and alarming truth about ourselves—not just teenagers, but society as a whole—than anything approached in Coppola’s based-on-a-true-story opus. Plus, it’s funny and quirky and thoughtfully directed—aspects completely lacking in The Bling Ring, a film in which nothing ever really happens.

Perhaps both the societal malaise that created them and the individual psyches of the real-life Bling Ringer are fascinating. Unfortunately, Coppola hasn’t brought any of that to the silver screen.

The Bling Ring is playing at the Art Theatre of Long Beach (2025 E. 4th Street, LB 90804). For info on show times call (562) 438-5435 or visit arttheatrelongbeach.com.

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