The Bling Ring: The Decomposition of the American Dream and Misplaced Idolization

Chandler Kilgore-Parshall ’16 /Emertainment Monthly Writer
The Coppola family is a unique breed of artists who are well renown within the movie industry. From classics such as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather to the indie movies of Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, you are bound to know this very popular name.
In 2013, Sophia Coppola develops an eccentric dark comedy about idolizing and stealing from the Hollywood stars in the film: The Bling Ring. The movie follows a group of fame-obsessed teenagers that burglarize homes of “superstars” like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. The basis for this movie comes from Hollywood tabloids about teenagers like Alexis Neiers (E!’s Pretty Wild) and Rachel Lee stealing from these “megastars.” While The Bling Ring could fall under the “based on a true story” dramatization category, it wouldn’t be giving the movie any credit. One thing to remember about this director is that her style follows a postmodernist vibe which uses both artistic cinematography and direction. Continuing in this style, Coppola’s new age panache towards character study presents the film like a satire on America’s shallow obsession of fame and how bad behavior grants celebrity.
It starts out with new student, Marc (Nick Prugo), trying to fit in at his new school. He finds solace with the popular crew led by Rebecca Ahn (Katie Chang) and Nicki Moore (Emma Watson), who like idolizing celebrities. In turn, that admiration becomes an unhealthy, love-hate obsession when they use the Internet to find the whereabouts of these stars and rob them while they are out.
While this posse of LA teenagers steal and try to lavish in these affluent lifestyles, the audience gets an insight into what motivates each character. As the new kid, Marc steals to fit in, but he has a conscience. Nicki Moore and her younger sisters (clearly inspired by the Neiers sisters) are home-schooled, spoiled brats that want it all; basically an acting and modeling career, but without the hard work. And Rebecca is the sociopathic leader of the group who uses her killer looks to charm. All of them are somehow unsatisfied with their ordinary “not-yet-famous” lives which soon becomes the impulse to commit these crimes. The transformation from admirers of the Hollywood scene into narcissistic “camera whores,” who exploit the publicity coverage of the break-ins as ego boosts, is immediate. After all the lines they cross throughout the course of the film, you will feel either disgust or empathy for these characters as the credits roll.
The Bling Ring’s empathic and scandalous look on the shallow debauchery of obtaining fame is never shoved down your throat. While you may come out of the theater entertained, the movie presents a lot of excellent questions about American culture and influences on the youth of today.
As I left the theater, I recognized that there are handfuls of Americans in this country who aspire to be these celebrities (some good role models, some atrocious) by either wearing their clothes or putting on their perfume. As if wearing these designer lines grant them sudden celebrity. Most adolescents abandon this yearning to imitate their idols when they grow up to pursue their own ambitions. Some don’t.
Has the perception of the American Dream been dramatically altered? Now, “American Dream” is a very broad phrase, it encompasses a wide range of definitions and meanings. What I mean by altered is pop culture, the media and social networking now seem to define the “American Dream”. It has now become a shallows idea to obtain.  Achieving the “American Dream” is often associated with becoming rich and famous, having a television show and buying anything your heart desires, which is similar to the celebrities portrayed in The Bling Ring. While some obtain it through talent and craft like Mad Men’s Jon Hamm or SNL’s Kristen Wigg. Others are rocket to stardom for awful behavior or mere exploitation like the Neiers sisters or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. In my opinion, Alexis Neiers doesn’t deserve her own show. If anything she should be on Beyond Scared Straight and learn how not to end up in a jail cell. The way we idolize these wild exhibitionists before actual talent, workers, and thinkers are disturbing.  We put imitation and superficiality ahead in American culture instead of uniqueness and discovering what makes us gifted.
The Bling Ring is another smart and witty film that Sofia Coppola has brought to the big screen. The acting is very solid all around with the stunning young Emma Watson leading the charge. The cinematography is well done with energetic pop music to accompany the glamorous Hollywood scene, establishing the film’s scandalous attitude regarding fame. The dialogue can grate on the nerves as you can only hear the Valley Girl “Oh my god,” so many times. And some scenes are rather slow and taxing but it seems to be by plan to represent the tedium and boredom that these teenagers eventually face with their heists. The Bling Ring is a superb and entertaining movie that you should see this summer!
 

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