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The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring

"Bling Ring" ends focusing mostly on Emma Watson's character, Nicki. When the enjoyable world she had participated in ends, she gets sucked back into her mother's embrace, her cult, that heretofore she had found successful means to quarantine as something only to be endured while at home. Her own escapades have ended with her mother having her back entire, and even if she talks back to her, gets angry at her for repeatedly insisting on inserting herself into her interview with the Vanity Fair reporter, we see she's due to become as much the harmless clown as her mother is. Harmless, because however much she might climb in this world -- her family is by no means poor or without resources -- they are made to seem so much trapped in a disassociated mindset, poor things petting their preciouses, they're more like pilgrims caught enspelled that the more sane world pilgrims may have to temporarily reckon in but mostly will shake their heads at and step by, as they interact with adult matter that still undergirds world affairs. There's also Marc, who we also focus on, and are made to understand as someone who was grabbed into a situation there's no way he could resist, and will now have to spend having his temporary bling-ring enrapture cleansed by four very brutal years in prison, hopefully keeping himself together so that when he's free he's thoroughly sobered but not spiritually snuffed out.

The film turns a cold shoulder, that is, to the actual ringleader of the Bling Ring, Rebecca. When Marc gives a look to her in the court room, knowing she'll be remote from him but hoping she might just not be, it's like she's been revealed as an alien slitherer deposited amongst teenage life, blithely unconcerned if what she made of her surroundings interjected a poison into the community that stalled the social fabric. She's just a few steps away from being someone a TMZ or even a Vanity Fair reporter might turtle before if s/he had to make light of: Do you yet remain someone who's propriety keeps from considering things I could engage that could upend your positioning in a conversation and make you my plaything? The film lets her seem someone so cold she would draw people to her to fulfill her own ends, all the while intending to leave them as scapegoats while she scoots off to a foreign locale. Someone almost unfathomably awful, who is incapable of remorse and immune to any impulse to oblige us by compromising herself so we can imagine her as either chastened or harmless, and thereby laugh at or maybe sympathize with but otherwise quickly regroup from and head on with our regular life. Someone who demonstrates that some children deserve to be tried as adults: no one is left feeling sorry for her four years in prison. And indeed her four-year term might not be enough: we may need eight to fortify ourselves to her next invasion.  

It can indeed be difficult to reveal who she is in this film to show she does deserve to be taken in almost near opposite. I am drawn to think of her as a conquistador who's come upon the Aztecs, or any European who found themselves on an island of dodo birds, in the way she shows this whole rich land of Hollywood homes is ripe for the taking. Like only one hundred conquistadors were required to claim a whole civilization, like dodos were almost like walking already-cooked turkeys to their European discoverers, Rebecca shows that five kids are sufficient to make it seem as if all Hollywood has been used as somebody else's boarding house. But the fact that Hollywood has become a place where cars and homes are so unprotected that their plundering comes across as innocence for the first time plucked, should ground the more mature amongst us to realize Rebecca in a more fair light. The sense you have is that somehow all of American's sense of vulnerability and fear and violence – that we know is everywhere – has been quarantined away from these affluent quarters into the world of Middle America. Mid-America has been left a stronghold suffering from torments from within and from without, which explains why when at the finish we see signs of people who actually populate it (in the courthouse guards, mostly), there's not an ounce of rosy life in any grim one of them. (And pity Marc, who when he is shown in the bus with fellow prisoners, comes across as a last sad twilight of still-cheery rosé before a remorseless term of sole stone-grey.) It’s been going on for enough time, we suddenly realize, that Hollywood could learn to assert as a reasonably confident norm something which had been unthinkable: there is no need to lock your doors, for we know we have no reason to fear intrusion. And so this shocking innocence comes across as the grossest vulgarity; another status symbol to show that being rich means being in a literally different universe from the poor.

Rebecca is portrayed as mostly someone who has evolved to the point that attitudes built around older realities have slipped away from her first, and so in this deliberately wrought out world of unchastened innocence she indeed understands it as a world of accessibility. She isn’t, that is, afloat in some realm of unreality, but understanding it straight. (Showing Marc this, by the way, is one of the ways she’s generous to him – a true best friend, with the first of course being that she immediately apprehended insecure him as someone fun to know.) She’s the first into this land of open resources, and knows to make full use of it, so her story isn’t about how she robbed celebrities’ homes but how she co-habited them, fit their world onto hers, and long enough so that it could be integrated near as blasé hers. I think we sense that we have a lesson to learn from her; and maybe for some of the time in their readily and intelligently discerning particular items amongst all the wealth of stuff (they're familiar with all the items, or at least the clothing and jewelry, and with plausible justice believe they know how to better ensemble it than their "owners" do), we take advantage of their being so engaged to maybe imagine ourselves along with them, plucking an item we see that they may not yet have claimed, and delighting in it. I’m not saying that we ever find ourselves as confident as Rebecca, but when Marc slips off being so apprehensive and learns to chill, I think we’re wondering if we somehow have been taught a lesson we needed to learn as well; and this is disorienting.

And when Rebecca sees nothing amiss in taking Paris Hilton’s dog, I don’t think we so much awaken from an evil spell that might have been partially cast upon us and see her as the foul snake she surely all the while has been, but take advantage of a trespass we can trap as surely irredeemably foul, to cooperate with an evil we may temporarily been loosened from. That is, I think what makes this rich landscape so plausibly innocent of the trauma affecting the rest of the nation is a collective agreement on our part to defer to the rich and powerful, to enable them with privileges appropriate to emperors from four centuries ago. When we walk amongst their paradise, we find sign to be angry at them but realize we can’t be drawneven in these conditions – to see them downed; a realization which would force us to realize how much of our awful world is really of our own sad, sick, surely masochistic, wanting. So us, actually the ones still caught in a kind of spell, decide at this point in the film to view the kids as having temporarily been caught in one. They just went on a wild ride which disjoined them from reality that they would have to sober up from. I think with enfranchising ourselves at their expense, we’re in the mood to make allowances, and I think especially with Nicky and Marc, we make them – however much Nicky is a made a subject of ongoing laughter as she and her family become a bundle of idiocy.  

We know that we were actually taken inside Paris Hilton’s own home in this movie, and that what we saw up close were her clothes closets and designated party rooms. I hope that some of us feel sick that thereby there’s a paul cast over all this film where the rich can draw as close as they want to us, let us feel their presence, if this is what they’re in the mood for, but it ever goes the other way it has to be managed so that the rightful norm that ascent is only by permission of the powerful, is confidently reasserted. 



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