Nov 14, 2014

Review: The Bling Ring (2011)

Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring was a pretty good movie but lacked depth in actually exploring its characters. It made for a pretty good satire of celebrity worshiping culture though. One thing I can say is that it was a pretty film that had the benefit of being able to actually shoot in Paris Hilton's real house. It also had some pretty tense moments. 

Anyway, when I found out that there was a Lifetime TV movie version of the Bling Ring that came out before Coppola's effort, I just had to see it. It's pretty much just a case of wanting to be able to say that I've seen it though, as a completionist. I definitely wasn't watching it and expecting it to be better than the 2013 version. Good TV movies do exist, but they're pretty rare.


Genre: drama
Directed by: Michael Lembeck
Produced by: Kyle A. Clark, Lina Wong, Orly Adelson, etc.
Written by: Shelley Evans
Music by: Lawrence Shragge
Running time: 87 minutes
Production company: Dick Clark Productions, Silver Screen Pictures
Distributed by: Lifetime Television
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Austin Butler, Yin Chang, Tom Irwin, Sebastian Sozzi, Jennifer Grey, Wendy Makkena, Spencer Locke, Tracey Fairaway, Alix Elizabeth Gitter, Scott Klace, Renee Olstead, Alex Feldman, Blake Robbins, Michael Rose, Sydney Sweeney, Mario Rivelli, Natalie Floyd


Zack Garvey (Austin Butler) suffers from an anxiety disorder that makes him nervous leaving his home. Absenteeism from school has forced the hands of his parents (Jennifer Grey and Scott Klace) to enroll him in a small special needs school. That's where Zack meets Natalie Kim (Yin Chang), a "popular girl" who takes him under her wing. She introduces him to the world of shoplifting and despite some early misgivings, things progress until Zack eventually finds himself with Natalie all alone inside Paris Hilton's house.


The way in which The Bling Ring is constructed is kind of similar to how it's done in Sofia Coppola's version. We're shown the present day as the film cuts to interview scenes with different characters throughout. To be honest the whole effort is massively half baked and half asssed. We don't really learn anything new or interesting about the characters in this way and it doesn't add anything to the story. 

An interesting thing about the film is that there's a big effort to include today's technology as part of the storyline. I applaud the effort but nothing really works or feels genuine. Just the fact that Facebook is shown as a fake knockoff version really bothers me. It doesn't even behave like the real Facebook does either. There's even an attempt at dividing up the movie into chapters with title screens styled as social media postings, but it's pretty unnecessary.

Now when it comes to characters, The Bling Ring is even thinner than The Bling Ring 2013. We understand Zack the most which is understandable since he's the main character. The main problem is that he goes through a poorly developed character change from anxious stressball to cool cat way too quick. The rest of the so-called ring which are all girls are thinner than paper and don't seem like anything more than stereotypical valley girls. It's also pretty painful to watch the whole gang of girls together, mostly because of the dialogue.

Make no mistake, the dialogue is definitely pretty bad in this TV film and a lot of the acting isn't up to snuff either. Austin Butler doesn't do drama very well and seems to go overboard a lot of the time. Not even veteran actress Jennifer Grey can help The Bling Ring in the acting department, but I chalk some of that to the botox in her face. I don't mean to be cruel or anything but she doesn't have much facial range at all anymore and I miss the cute Jennifer Grey who could've aged more naturally. Special mention to Scott Klace for demonstrating that he probably needed some additional takes to get his scenes right. He's definitely not the only one in that regard.

There's also a huge deficiency in any kind of tension at all when there clearly should have been. Zack and his gang are breaking into celebrities' houses multiple times but it was pretty tough feeling invested at all if it was going to work out or not. The houses don't even look that great for being owned by the rich and famous. Paris Hilton's house is the most guilty of this since it's the most featured. All that's really done is including as much pink as possible and hanging up pictures of Paris herself. They even go as far as getting an actress to pretend to be Paris Hilton, without actually showing her face. Would've helped if she sounded just a little bit more like her.

You also have to wonder how characters could be so dumb. Zack is a smart enough guy who shows a bit of self-control compared to Natalie who takes lots of pictures and tells all her friends about their escapades. Zack for whatever reason loses all reasoning and advertises his stolen wares over Facebook. There are many other examples of bad decisions and dumb motivations but what can I say? This is an inept movie from A to Z.

Thankfully The Bling Ring is only 90-minutes of choppy TV movieness and it easily makes Sofia Coppola's version look like a masterpiece. Everything about it is poor from the characters, their motivations, their dialogue and the bad attempt at including modern day tech into the storyline. You'll have a much better time reading the Wikipedia article about the real-life Bling Ring than watching this movie. 



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