I’d be lying if I said that Emma Watson wasn’t a huge factor in my decision to see The Bling Ring. Aside from her badass cameo in This Is The End, she had been conspicuously absent in my summer movie picks. Unfortunately, Sofia Coppola‘s latest production suggests Watson’s absence would have been preferable.
For those of you who have not heard of The Bling Ring, it is about a group of pretty, rich people who rob slightly prettier, richer people. That’s it. Sure, it’s stylish enough. Designer labels and trendy hip hop abound. But substance is elusive. There’s no commentary on morality or ethics, no case for viewer sympathy. Furthermore, the film does nothing to combat the standard mediocre portrayals of teens in media.
The characters are based on real people, but they function solely as vapid, reckless stereotypes. Their possible motivations for burglarizing–i.e. unstable home lives, personal insecurity, lack of self-esteem–are hinted at but not sufficiently explored. Meanwhile, their interactions never leave the range of “It was totally chill” and “Quit being a little bitch.” The Bling Ring is the type of movie that makes you feel sorry for those who took part in it.
Which brings me back to Emma Watson. Over the years, I’ve seen enough interviews and featurettes to attest to her intelligence and poise. While I’m reluctant to pigeonhole her as Hermione Granger, it was that role that convinced me she is capable of portraying characters with integrity and emotional depth. Needless to say, watching her apply lip gloss and talk about outfits (in a phony American accent) was disappointing. If she, as well as her young costars, had been given more opportunity to deviate from the shallow teen cliché, perhaps The Bling Ring would have been palatable.
As it stands, The Bling Ring is a forgettable film whose relative pointlessness is, in fact, the point. Viewers feel empty after watching it because the actions of those onscreen were empty. I’ve accepted that now. Kudos to Coppola for having me search for meaning where there is none.