Friday, May 3, 2013

The Bling Ring Trailer

I may sound like a broken record, but 2013 is shaping up to be a great year in film. Among my most anticipated releases is one from Sofia Coppola. The Bling Ring trailer has recently been released and I thought I would take a moment to talk about the film and the real life people who inspired the story. I have been meaning to write a post about this film for a long time, but only recently have I been able to find enough information to warrant one.

For those of you who have even the slightest interest in celebrity culture, you are probably well aware of the Los Angeles teenagers who, back in 2009, were accused and eventually convicted of burglarizing the homes of several famous A-listers. Those who followed the story were amazed by the brazen actions of these kids, but were far more interested in the mentality that fostered their behavior.

Celebrity worship is something that fascinates me. I think we all have our favorite stars. We follow them on twitter, we read their crappy books, and defend even their worst work with the fire of a thousand suns. Some take it a bit further and buy what their favorite stars buy, and stake out their movie sets and hotels to catch a glimpse of them walking to their car. They watch TMZ or read Perez Hilton periodically, and can't help but grab a People magazine while waiting in line at the grocery store. This is all fairly normal, especially for teenagers and young adults. But there exists a culture of people for whom this is not enough.

Before you read this, I suggest you read Nancy Jo Sales's Vanity Fair article, otherwise the context of what follows may be lost.

The LA teenagers, referred to as the Burglar Bunch or The Bling Ring included Alexis Neiers, Nick Prugo, Rachel Lee, Diana Tamayo, Courtney Ames among a gaggle of other 18-27 year olds and petty criminals from the Valley. What made these young people so interesting is the fact that they came from a certain level of wealth. It is well known that Tamayo drove a pearl white Audi A4. When I first heard this story I became very interested in the mind-set that leads to this type of behavior from kids who are already well off by any standard.

I think it is safe to argue that the obsession with celebrities and their irresponsible, often criminal actions was pretty fierce from 2002-2010, and it still continues with a force that seems completely out of control. There has been an entire generation that has grown up watching a parade of drunken, snatch flashing, law breaking celebrities saturate the headlines. A generation in which Neiers, Prugo, Lee and the others are very much apart of. The celebrities that the Burglar Bunch targeted were those whose up-scale, responsibility free lifestyles were glorified and celebrated even by respectable media organizations.

(See what happens?) 

Among the Bling Ring's victims were Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, Miranda Kerr, and the lesser known Audrina Patridge and Rachel Bilson. What made the crimes so disturbing was the fact that the teens staked out the homes using publicly available maps of celebrity homes, followed their favorite stars movements on TMZ and other gossip sites, and picked their targets based on the ease of access to the property. It was a fairly sophisticated system that these teens worked out, and they displayed a level of commitment that is rather impressive.

What was also impressive was the amount of items they were able to steal before being caught. The teens called their theft 'shopping,' which I think was a way for them to frame and justify their actions. They knew it was wrong, but they didn't see themselves as criminals despite stealing nearly 3 million dollars worth of clothes, shoes, jewelry, art, weapons and drugs.

But perhaps the most interesting element of the saga is the fact that in the end, the story of these young people was never really about the celebrities, the fashion or the money. It was about a group of lost kids caught up in the turmoils of young love, family strife, and the desperate need to both fit in, and stand out. On the surface this is just a story of superficial teens and their quest to be famous, but on a deeper level it's about the fear of being invisible, inadequate.

It has been a few years since the the Bling Ring was exposed and brought to justice. Though in my opinion they were not punished nearly as severely as they deserved. Prugo was in custody for a year and was sentenced to time served in 2013. Rachel Lee, the alleged ring leader, was sentenced to 4 years. Neiers got 180 days but only served 30, along with 3 years probation.

I am not here to defend the celebrities they stole from or the actions of the theifs. But Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and the others have enough money to properly secure their homes, but they chose not to and they got what they deserved. I live in a studio apartment and I have better security than these multi-millionars. I certainly don't leave a key under my door mat like Hilton.

This is the perfect film for Coppola. She has a history of creating very female centric and youthful, films with a lot of glamour and character nuance. In the past I have been skeptical of Coppola because I was unsure if it was nepotism or talent that gave her success. But with a strong collection of successful, poignant, well crafted films, I would argue that Sofia Coppola is one of the greatest American directors.

The most significant actress involved in The Bling Ring is Emma Watson. She is the Western worlds sweetheart. Her roles in Harry Potter, My Week With Marylyn, Ballet Shoes and The Perks of Being a Wallflower have all been very sweet. She is the girl next door, or your friend's British cousin. She's the girl that you simultaneously love and bitterly envy. I', excited that she is in this film because I think it is an important move for her to step out of the safety of her previous roles. From the trailer you can see that Watson is playing a much more overtly sexualized character than anything she's done before.

Watson will be portraying Alexis Neiers who was the most public face of the Bling Ring famed for being toxic, vain, and materialistic. Neiers had a brief stint on the reality show Pretty Wild, which chronicled her life as a wealthy party girl. The show was quietly cancelled after Neiers became a suspect in the robberies, but that did not stop her from seizing every opportunity in front of the cameras. Even as she walked out of court she would pose and perform monologues about her imagined successful future to the crowds of people waiting. Watson's portrayal as a spoiled, American girl will really be a test of her skills because it's far outside her good girl persona.

The film also stars several young new comers including Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Taissa Farmiga. I am excited to see so many new faces in this film. I think it is rather refreshing and will give Coppola the advantage of shaping her actors to fit her characters. That is where Coppola really excels as a writer and director. She's approaches filmmaking with a really modern eye and attention to detail and her characters are perfectly integrated into the sugary distopic stories she creates.

This film has a lot of potential, and I hope it meets my inflated expectations. I will probably get around to a review a few weeks after it is released, so look out for that. This a great piece of modern culture. So check out the newly released trailer below, and comment!

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