The Bling Ring:
How best to describe the nature of the moviegoer’s experience then by Lindsay Lohan’s comeback movie where she muses on the essence of cinema: When was the last time we have seen a movie that really means the business? It’s probably not in either of these productions I’ll review, but at least The Bling Ring attempts to move away from the heavy didactic questions that seem to plague Hollywood films. Sofia Coppola, still very much regarded as an arty director who hasn’t leaped to the top through the classic back route of Hollywood nepotism does well to cast a bunch of unknown actors (bar Emma Watson) to ape the real-life nocturnal deviances – because essentially we are watching a bunch of jaded kids break into specific celebrity homes in a glib and perfunctory fashion, take what they can get, soak in the LA lifestyle of partying, materialism, drugs and living like super rich kids. Once they get cocksure with the dubious ‘fame,’ they tell all and sundry (which seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do) what they got up to at Paris’ et all, only to get caught (surprise, surprise).
Perhaps it is Brett Easton Ellis’ influence that pervades this film, a bit like Less Than Zero, the story resolves around inconsequential dialogue from trust fund kids (irony is nicely embedded throughout the film as none of these characters are remotely ‘poor’) who worship at the chalice of nihilism. Sofia does this well by having deliberately childish dialogue hinting at their early disenfranchise with just about everything, none of the kids have ambition and are only stealing because they’re seemingly lucky with it. We quickly learn that they are not master criminals, so the film, once we discover this whirls along the same vein, a bit like the original Vanity Fair article. Rebecca and Marc, our Bonnie and Clyde of the piece meet at their alternate school. Rebecca, smooth but insipid and Marc, desperate for acceptance hatch a plan to go ‘shopping,’ when the plan goes without the hitch the first couple of times, other friends get in on the spree. Emma Watson, the only major star in this is deceptively good at playing the caricature of the bratty bimbo. And that bratty bimbo mantra becomes the film’s accelerator. In repetitive fashion they exist in the vacuous vortex, which tedious at times is not entirely unenjoyable. LA culture, alien to the tee is demonstrated perfectly here. It’s not tagged Hollyweird without a reason.
The only errors in the film lie in its lie of humour, couldn’t there have been more jokes mocking the whole concept of Hollywood, or even the greed within? The kids targeted by the said celebrities they targeted? Away from that the film is unadulterated fluff, relating to the cultural emptiness of LA culture. The city isn’t mocked as Hollyweird for nothing, hence why I liked it.
It’s not surprising when thinking about the direction of Hollywood to see the making of a ’70s porno being a major movie in 2013. But then this is no comedy, instead it is an unveiling of the pornographic curtain (no doubt complete with gauze-like materials and bodily residue involved). This was all set in place by Lovelace’s third autobiography, Ordeal battering the slap and tickle nature of the blue movies. There are pros and cons as to whether this movie should have been made, in one corner the original film supposedly represents the starting point of declining social mores and shouldn’t be celebrated, to others Lovelace represented a cautionary feminist tale related to a subjugated woman no longer in purgatory. The film is attempting to chart a woman who was no longer a cheap piece of fodder to be exploited but a mouth piece (for want of a better body part) for the girls on the fringes of skid row.
Perhaps then it’s why the film, relating to the making of 1972 classic Deep Throat, is so ripe for the plucking; the naive Lovelace is pitted against the big dicks of the studio from start to finish. Forty years on women are still keeping screwed with just as much gusto.
The story, blow by blow, is simple. Linda grows up in a strict family (although not strict enough to avoid Lovelace having a child giving up for adoption), meets charismatic bad boy Chuck, marries him and becomes the supportive wife. Chuck in turns brags to the creme-de-la-creme of pornmakers that Linda is an orator of the highest order. Signed for the movie, a star in porn is born (overnight or at least after that infamous six day shoot.) Seyfried, all doe eyed and willow-some has never commanded my attention, however in this she is good, very good. Her body language and innocence makes her the ingénue you could envision her as. From the first half of the movie where we see the ‘legend’ born, we thereafter see the cracks in the veneer, the Hollywood story souring in spectacular fashion. Husband Chuck, an unlikeable suitor-turned-husband is portrayed as paranoid, zealous, controlling at the start. Through flashbacks the curtain unveils to show the abuse, sadism and malevolence that maketh the man. A rape scene (plastered inaccurately in chronology within the movie for cinematic effect) is particularly gruesome and sad to watch as we see Lovelace become symbolically, physically and literally a vessel. You really can’t help but think he was the biggest bastard who ever lived and Saarsguard should be commended for his evilness being so luridly excessive. Filmed in beautiful ’70s-esq soft focus, his presence is unsettling but the sets, colours and attention to detail are truly glorious. Top kudos should be given to pushing the joyous kitschy vulgarity of a polyester decade back into full focus.
Star cameos pepper this movie with the actors clearly relishing the crudity the material provides. The filmmakers are majestic, and the grotesque Hefner (James Franco wasted in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) is, again sensationally sleazy. The juggernaut performance comes from Lovelace’s villainous, withered, repressive mother, played by a festering Sharon Stone. The casting is a wonderful reversal of fortune considering Basic Instinct charted a new dynamic of erotic thriller into the celluloid academy. Away from the casting, the behind the scenes footage that really drives the vehicle is lurid and unflinching. It links very closely to Ordeal, showing the viewer just how much Lovelace had to go to demonstrate her claims of being the subjugated woman, specifically in the polygraph test that the abuse, the violence and the threads actually happened. The film, done with an admirable bias to the pathetic life of Linda Lovelace almost appears too unbelievable to believe, specifically that it wasn’t a dreamy orgasm that abruptly stopped.
The film will probably not receive glowing reviews (bar its handling of decor, detail and acting) for it is too salacious to be a classic, too violent to be enjoyed and too upsetting a story for the viewer to either be uplifted or have closure. Its importance lies in its detail, allowing Linda a visual last word, to give caution to the ‘all that glitters’ Hollywood hokum that is so universally pedaled. Perhaps this film should give rise to a film simply entitled ‘The Casting Couch, and other stories of sexual manipulation’. Exploitation, survival, control and submission are all magnified in this hardcore but heartfelt production, it’s not for the faint-hearted but the voyeurs, myth-busters and moviegoers. For that, and for poor, pounced-upon Linda, that’s worth a nod.
Ordeal – Linda Lovelace. The book starts: ‘This is a book by Linda Lovelace, a girl who no longer exists….’ From this starting point the book promises to get under your skin. Get reading.
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/03/billionaire-girls-201003 – Original article that inspired the movie..
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2120823/How-Deep-Throat-star-Linda-Lovelaces-tragic-life-modern-morality-tale.html – Another take on the life of Linda Lovelace.