Archives for posts with tag: The Bling Ring

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Wedding Crashers costars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite in The Internship, adequate underdog comedy fare that plays it safe and superficial, never deviating from genre conventions, and gives audiences exactly what the trailer has led them to expect. Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, wristwatch salesmen who, finding themselves the latest casualties of modernization, apply for a competitive Google internship in the long-shot hope of employment.

The protagonists’ plight will be an uncomfortably poignant one to endangered data entry workers, Blockbuster Video clerks, and all of the other expendable relics of the late twentieth century, along with that general portion of the audience comprising the rear guard of the technologically squeamish. There is an irony to the early scene in which Nick and Billy cavalierly order a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, as they themselves, like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, are suddenly made conscious of the fact that the world they knew until now is gone. After being dismissed as dinosaurs by their younger and more brilliant rivals, however, the pair finds that their age and experiences lend them a skill set and a valuable difference of perspective, a reconciliation that finds expression in the image of a tyrannosaurus skeleton wearing Groucho glasses.

Nick and Billy’s obligatory (and unlikely) comeback notwithstanding, the film offers little hope to those still haunted by the words of former employer Sammy (John Goodman) when he tells them, “Everything’s computerized now. [. . .] They don’t need us anymore.” Then, too, there is one cynical young intern’s assertion that, “The whole American Dream thing that you guys grew up on – that’s all it is nowadays – a dream.”

Vaughn and Wilson make a great comedy team, and the supporting cast, from John Goodman to Josh Brener, Will Ferrell, and the delightfully arch Aasif Mandvi, greatly enlivens an uneven script by Vaughn and Jared Stern. The Internship is funny, if not, perhaps, as consistently hilarious as one might hope; but the pacing is impeccable, so that the movie is never in danger of grating on the viewer’s patience – even if that same viewer’s sense of the decent is in for a thrashing.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Internship is:

13. Statist. The eccentric Yo-Yo’s (Tobit Raphael) traumatic homeschooling serves implicitly to endorse the public education system (cf. The Bling Ring).

12. Feminism-ambivalent. Dana (Rose Byrne) admits that her single-minded careerism has prevented her from having a happy and normal domestic existence. Her solution, however, is not to quit her job and raise a family, but to begin an affair with a new coworker. (cf. The Heat)

11. Pro-gay. “Seriously, same-sex partners make excellent parents,” Neha (Tiya Sircar) gushes. “I so wish my parents were gay.” Strippers engage in lesbian play. Anal sex is a “life changer”.

10. Pro-miscegenation. The sight of curvaceous black booty gets an obnoxious mattress salesman (Will Ferrell) hot to trot. Asian guy Yo-Yo, meanwhile, receives serial lap dances from one or more white strippers. There is also flirtation between Indian Neha and white guy Stuart (Dylan O’Brien).

9. Pro-wigger. Lyle (Josh Brener) appropriates ‘hood lingo throughout. “Hells yeah,” fist-bumping, etc.

8. Anti-Luddite. Things are getting better all the time. One suspects that Nick (Wilson), after finally landing a job with Google, would retract his earlier words of despair: “People have a deep mistrust of machines. Have you seen Terminator? Or 2? Or 3? Or 4?” (cf. no. 7)

7. Technology-skeptical. Despite its basic endorsement of innovation, The Internship does imply critiques of what gadgetry and the internet have done to human interaction. “People hate people,” Sammy observes, and post-adolescent representatives of Generation Y exhibit social dysfunction ranging from crippling shyness to barely human rudeness and lack of any shame whatsoever in the discussion of matters best left private. Neha, like many of her generation, fetishizes Japanese pop-cultural garbage and says she enjoys cosplay (dressing up like anime characters). (cf. no. 8)

6. Pro-slut. Dana sleeps with Nick on the night of their first date.

5. Pro-drug. Billy (Vaughn) unwisely suggests he would be happy to have a “cold one” or “get high” with the severe Mr. Chetty (Mandvi). He also expresses a willingness to procure alcohol for underage co-interns. Students have the best night of their lives getting drunk and raising a ruckus at a strip club. The film does, however, at least discourage drunk driving and warns against overzealous imbibing (“I think my liver hurts”).

4. Anti-family/anti-marriage. Old client Bob (Gary Anthony Williams) has an ugly daughter who Nick and Billy have to pretend is pretty. Yo-Yo’s father (Fel Tengoncion) is a henpecked husband. His mother (Chuti Tiu) was overly protective, breastfeeding him until he was seven. She also mentally and physically abuses him, which has made Yo-Yo overly harsh on himself, so that he feels he must punish himself for “inferior performance”. “My mom calls me a maniac every night when I tell her I love her,” he says. (cf. no. 11)

3. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration. “Diversity is in our DNA,” Lyle says of his company. Intellectually bright non-whites appear in depressing abundance as juxtaposed with dopey white guys Nick and Billy. Anti-American zillionaire and ethnosaboteur Mark Zuckerburg will probably get misty-eyed when he watches The Internship‘s depictions of all the technologically adept diversity awaiting the country as soon as “immigration reform” is passed.

2. Progressive. Google is “an engine for change”.

1. Corporate. The Internship is essentially a feature-length Google commercial.

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Sofia Coppola’s latest effort is very much her own. Bright, punchy, or ambient music, an elegant eye, and a sardonic sense of humor imbue yet another examination of rampant girldom with Coppola’s trademark sensibility. Unlike Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette, however, The Bling Ring features no strong or particularly likable central protagonist, and is consequently a much more detached and ironic study than its predecessors.

The Bling Ring opens with shots of the Facebook pages of characters Marc (Israel Broussard), Chloe (Claire Julien), and Rebecca (Katie Chang) – an appropriate means of introduction in this true crime story set in an amoral teenage order founded on trendiness and popularity. All attending a high school for affluent problem kids, these are the more sophisticated and fashionable counterparts to the hedonistic nihilists in Larry Clark’s Bully, operating out of the sinister psychological intersection of thug chic and a privileged entitlement mentality.  Along with like-minded recruits Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (adorable Taissa Farmiga), the group combines its vapid interests in celebrity, pop criminality, and haute couture by committing a series of casual burglaries of the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and others.

An odd feature of these young people’s lives is how little concerned with love they appear to be. Tawdry apparel, dirty dancing, sex, and group acceptance interest them plenty, but these new teen creatures bear almost no resemblance to their grandmothers, the malt shop loiterers of old, with their puppy love crushes and idealism. The new teen queen is a kind of ravenous beast sustained by a constant regimen of dope, dainty baubles, irresponsible escapades, and protected from introspection by forbidding walls of abrasive music preoccupied with self-determined fabulousness.

It is difficult to watch The Bling Ring and not be reminded of another group of young Californians who targeted celebrity victims – namely, the Manson Family. In both cases, pathological fascination with the rich and famous, coupled with peer pressure, drugs, and an unhealthily violent cultural diet, result in celebrities being simultaneously venerated as idols and dehumanized as potential victims. Marc, reflecting on the meaning of his acts in the aftermath of his arrest, confides that after the story of his involvement hit the news, he received over 800 Facebook friend requests, suggesting that it is criminality itself as much as fame that attracts the adulation of the unsavory masses.

If The Bling Ring has any discernible shortcoming, it may be the dearth of surprising event, as the film proceeds along a fairly straight, predictable line as far as the plot. Apart from the signature Sofia Coppola seal in terms of color, design, and atmosphere, the film’s most attractive strength must be its delightful cast. Israel Broussard, featured in what, for lack of any real hero, is The Bling Ring‘s lead role, has a Byronic look and an enigmatic vulnerability that complements the Coppola aesthetic nicely; and all of the damsels in dissipation, from Katie Chang to Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, and Emma Watson, are irresistibly vile, divine, and luscious.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis kisses Sofia Coppola’s ring and indicates that her most recent flourish as a dependable writer-director is:

11. Multiculturalist/pro-miscegenation.  People of different races interact as without the least consciousness of their physiological or cultural differences. One of the girls has a thug Latino boyfriend. The camera lingers longingly over untouchable Katie Chang.

10. Anti-wigger.  Pop veneration of the ghetto mentality goes hand in hand with nihilism, crime, and self-destruction.

9. Pro-police.  Authorities conduct their investigation and effect the necessary arrests professionally and without inflicting unnecessary harm.

8. Anti-religion.  Modern woman’s faith is junk spirituality, “the philosophy of the Secret”, a kooky, relativistic melange in which words like “Lord” rub shoulders indiscriminately with new age talk of “karma”.

7. Anti-gun.  Privately owned guns, this film appears to want to convince viewers in one very frightening scene, make homes less safe and endanger the mentally deficient.  However, the fact that one of the girls steals a gun and gives it to her thug boyfriend demonstrates that criminals are not above obtaining their guns illegally and that gun control legislation is therefore futile.

6. Philanthropy-skeptical.  One suburban family claims a commitment to charitable causes in Africa, but cannot identify the specific country where they are active.  This pretended philanthropy is played as a sympathy card after the girls are caught by the police.

5. Statist.  The pitiable demonstration of home schooling as practiced by one ditzy mother (Leslie Mann) is an implicit endorsement of public education.

4. Anti-drug.  Drinking and driving results in a non-fatal accident, which, however, fails to prevent the girls from going out and behaving just as carelessly as before. Accelerating substance abuse parallels the girls’ increasingly poor judgment and carelessness in their criminal endeavor.

3. Pro-gay.  Sexually ambiguous Marc shares his girlfriends’ interest in fashion (including high heel shoes) and refers to a male schoolmate as “hot”.

2. Class-conscious.  Coppola (perhaps responding to the criticism that Marie Antoinette depicted a self-absorbed aristocrat sympathetically without taking into consideration the economic plight of the French peasantry?) depicts moral decay as in part deriving from wealth and privilege (cf. Billy Madison).

1. Pro-family.  The horror wrought by permissive or absentee parenting is the unstressed theme that haunts The Bling Ring.

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