Sofia Coppola’s Paparazzi Porn

Blame It On My A.D.D., Baby

Blame It On My A.D.D., Baby

by A.J. Holt

Sofia Coppola’s oeuvre is masturbation. That’s how a film teacher dismissed “Marie Antoinette.”  And that’s bothered me more than the collective swoon over “Lost in Translation,” the weakest link in a trio of meditations on celebrity that include “Antoinette” and “Somewhere,” making me wonder if Ms. Coppola had climaxed after her placid, unpretentious retelling of “The Virgin Suicides.”

“The Bling Ring” is the fourth installment in the glitz series. It’s a based-on-true-events crimedy about a gang of Valley kids who took a slew of low brow celebrities for $3 million.

Following “Lost in Translation,” Coppola’s films haven’t sat well with audiences or critics. Practically no one clapped as the exit music, Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids,” rolled. As I filed out of the packed theatre, the dissatisfaction was apparent: murmuring, growling, f-words. It was like “Spring Breakers” – another stylish dramedy about teenage crime – all over again.

But this experience was special because “The Bling Ring” is a product of Los Angeles, by Los Angeles, about Los Angeles.  People pointed to the screen and said things like “That’s on Robertson.” Perhaps seeing a movie about something that you’re knee deep in won’t knock your socks off.

With regard to form, however, Coppola is the perennial composer. She doesn’t inundate us with copious close ups, uniformly uses a variety of shots, and has a predilection for holding them. Ironically, while most of the movie’s characters have ADHD, Coppolla expects us to sit still.

From left to right: Writer/Director Sofia Coppola, Emma Watson (Nicki), Taissa Farmiga (Sam), and Claire Julien (Chloe) (Source: Fanshare)

From left to right: Writer/Director Sofia Coppola, Emma Watson (Nicki), Taissa Farmiga (Sam), and Claire Julien (Chloe) (Source: Fanshare)

“The Bling Ring’s” score is minimal, but the soundtrack is masterfully cut to control mood and pace. Most impressive is the use of a lush remix of The Presets’ “Fall,” which impregnates a celebratory montage – the climax of the film. Waiting for the drop on that track was as suspenseful as it got, and I was confounded that Coppola excluded it, until I realized that the rest of the film is supposed to be the proverbial fall.

Which brings us to the major criticism entitled to all audiences – not just Angelenos. You can make a convincing argument that this film is as flat as some of Frank Ocean’s delivery on the final song.

Let’s start at the end, since the film is a flashback. With the exception of one genuinely rueful character, everyone remains the same: affectless, borderline incoherent, parishioners of Holy Wood.

And this is how it starts: Marc, anxious and sexually ambivalent, transfers to a high school notorious for burn-outs and meets Becca, an ethically ambivalent celebrity gawker, and a Sloane clone called Chloe. Marc and Becca start lifting from unlocked cars in upper class neighborhoods where they party. This snowballs into the robbery of an acquaintance’s  Woodland Hills mansion.

Why stop there? Why not celebrities?

Celebrities, whose Hollywood Hills homes are humungous shiny mausoleums for the image they’ve cultivated. Celebrities, who flaunt their schedules on the Internet, whose addresses are a click away, and who, evidently out of carelessness, hubris, or naiveté, leave their doors unlocked and don’t notice when their stuff is gone.  Celebrities who are never there.

That’s the running theme about the characters of this story. Literally, figuratively, psychologically, spiritually, whatever, they simply are not there. I was moved that Coppola’s effort here encapsulated the early work of Bret Easton Ellis in “Less Than Zero” and “The Informers.” Both of those works have been adapted for the screen. The former was mostly miscast, had no funny bone, and veered off the ethos of the novel in the direction of a morality tale with character arcs. The latter, a more honest adaptation, was torn up in the editing room and released without a third act.

bee

Ellis wrote the screenplay for “The Canyons” which stars Lindsay Lohan, one of the Bling Ring’s victims, and adult actor James Deen (Source: Interview Magazine)

Ellis master-crafted riveting yarns involving obnoxiously wealthy skinny tan zombie-scenesters.  Depending on how it’s read, the writing acts as depressing social criticism or black humored morbid parody. Ellis’ characters are unremarkable, unexceptional, generally unproductive. ”Less Than Zero” is about a boy chasing around his friend for money he lent, and some parties he attends along the way. The girls in the books freak out if they haven’t recognized anyone at a party or if their acquaintances got into a music video.

These are the very concerns of Nicki (Emma Watson) and her adopted sister Sam. They club hop, sext celebrities, obsess over the biz, and own lots of mini-skirts and leopard print-wear. Naturally, they’re friends of Chloe, who introduces them to Becca and Marc one night.

And so it starts.

Coppola’s signature light touch keeps the horror and austere moralizing at bay. Typically sparse, Coppola’s dialogue here is comparably verbose and mostly dim-witted. The coterie communicates with various one word variations of “chill,” slut, and bitch. Ms. Watson has fun with SoCal debutante brogue that shapes “The Bling Ring’s” identity.

Although there’s no nudity in the film, drug use is fairly frequent. Ellis’ work insists that drugs aren’t the seminal problem of most of his characters; rather, drugs are a solution with side effects. “The Bling Ring” kids shrugs off drugs the same way. Chloe gets in an accident, brags about impressing the cops with how ably she drove under intense inebriation, and moans about community service. Nicki freebases while Sam changes outfits compulsively, until Nicki curtly informs that that outfit looks fine.

There’s no catharsis at the end of “The Bling Ring.” Like its characters, it’s rather ambivalent. In a story about deluded bourgeois kleptomania aimed at the glitterati, there is no one to pity. The fabulous celebrity wealth is the elephant in the corner designed by Chanel. Even though I don’t covet most of Paris Hilton’s stuff, it’s fairly revolting how much of it she has, and what it’s all worth.

This criticism comes together through Leslie Mann, who plays mother to Sam and Nicki. She home schools the girls based on a religious philosophy indebted to “The Secret.” Point one of a lesson plan – name a positive characteristic of Angelina Jolie. Seriously.

the real blng ring

The Real Burglar Bunch

If we didn’t know this story was based on fact, we’d think it to be farce. Is it plausible for amateurs to repeatedly and relentlessly rob from the crème-da-le-crème of the tabloids and mag rags? Do kids really talk like that? Can they act without any introspection, relying on the will of instinct, drawn mindlessly to glamour?

Yes, yes, and yes. Just read the Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales on which the film is based. Some of the most jaw dropping dialogue is lifted from that article. One potential pitfall of the movie is its exclusion of the supposed discord in the group. Coppola could have developed a relationship between Sam and Marc to stir the pot, which would’ve really steered the movie into Ellis territory, as interactions would inevitably devolve into eye rolls, sighs, and other passive aggressive pitter patter incongruent with this go-go ride.

Fame is also lubricant for the summer’s Rapture comedy “This Is the End” (guest starring Emma Watson) about a curmudgeon, his friend, and associates at a housewarming party in the Hollywood Hills, which is interrupted by the apocalypse. That killjoy is Jay Baruchel and his friend is Seth Rogen and the associates are fellow funnymen James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Jonah Hill.

Because the actors play themselves, about half of the jokes play off that premise. The movie is an alternate reality in which the actors are caught impersonating themselves and their cinematic personas. This helps us swallow the cheesy effects we’re not used to seeing in mainstream movies today. But I won’t reckon reviewing this film extensively because it’s unfair to spoil someone else’s punch lines – if you like the foul mouthed, sexual, silly, rude, politically incorrect kind.

Alec Julian is a Los Angeles based writer, who (fake) tweets

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