There will not be a more fitting triple feature in the next three years than Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, Michael Bay's Pain & Gain, and, the film of the hour, Sofia Coppola's Bling Ring. Here are three pictures that have garnered very strong, mixed reception from audiences who either hail them as subversive art or condemn them as cheap glorification and monotony. I believe these three pictures are some of the strongest films thematically to emerge from the surface this year.
Korine's Spring Breakers was a hypnotic rollercoaster of a film, combining the likes of artsy, neon cinematography and mesmerizing instances of parties and drug-fueled chaos. I loved the film and I'll be damned if it wasn't one of the year's best. Bay's Pain & Gain was a hilarious, yet darker ride through the hellish lives of three macho-men, two of them gymnasts at a Miami gym, and how they cooked up a scheme to steal the identity and luxuries of an arrogant millionaire. I thought Bay was going to shamelessly turn a true story of disgusting proportions into a laugh-riot (which he kind of did), but my attitude changed when I saw how shockingly blunt Bay was by almost coming out and saying these guys are impossible to respect on any level.
And now, Coppola's Bling Ring can complete "The Brutal American Dream" trilogy of 2013. Riding off the artsy qualities of Korine's masterwork and packing in its own attitude, this is a nicely executed picture that exposes the stupidity of its teens in question, but also achieves a strong commentary and voice on its idiotic subjects. One thing all three films of the "Brutal American Dream" trilogy have in common is they have no protagonists, you're not supposed to side with any character here - and if you do - I worry about the state of your moral compass. Almost every character in these three films are disgustingly immature, soulless brats who can't accept the cards they've been dealt and take out their jealously and envy on others. It's a sick world we live in.
The film deals the account of the infamous Bling Ring group you may have heard of in the tabloids a few years back. They were a group of several young teens that made a habit of breaking and entering celebrities home when they were away headlining a party or shooting a film and stealing some of their belongings. They took only a small amount of a colossal stash, in order to not make it obvious. That's arguably the smartest thing they ever did and they still managed to get caught.
The film begins by showing Marc (Israel Broussard), a friendless teen with big self-esteem issues being friended by Rebecca (Katie Chang), who shows him how easy it is to burglarize homes and cars in the Hollywood Hills area. They venture out to different cars and different homes together, one of them being Paris Hilton's, and eventually team up with Nicki (Emma Watson), Chloe (Claire Julien), and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) to burglarize the likes of other celebrity homes.
Nicki is perhaps the most disturbing character in the sea of kleptomaniac sociopaths. She's the kind of girl who constantly flips her back in a snotty way, and she and her companions are the kind that take a short breath before saying something. Worst of all, she is absolutely brilliant at covering herself, acting like a huge humanitarian and a good soul in the face of trouble or punishment. She puts on a cute, "how could you hate me?" face and shoots you a perky, attractive smile that'll make your heart melt. Emma Watson plays this role with true talent.
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Many will complain of the lack of character development; convention and my inherent love for it would suggest that I complain too. But, just like in Spring Breakers and Pain & Gain, there is nothing to these characters to begin with. They're intellectually and morally vapid brats with no heart or soul. They're a disgusting representation of the current generation and lack anything evident of character or personality. Writer/director Coppola portrayed them just as they should be.
I also find the soundtrack and musical-choices of Coppola quite appealing any tasteful. The combination of hard-hitting rap and sugar pop music makes the film work on a level akin to how Spring Breakers worked. Some will find it obnoxious and redundant. That's how the current generation likes it; just give it to them.
Sofia Coppola brilliantly represents an unfortunately large sector of the teen population in terms of speech and attitude in The Bling Ring. To many teens, everything is "chill," "tight," and the biggest concern on girls' minds are if their butt looks awesome in those pants or making sure they look hot but not desperate when in the club. It's a depressing standard we've created. As stated, Coppola portrays it accurately and impressively; her elegant style has effectively been put to a great but depressingly true story.
Reviewed by Steve Pulaski
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