Against The Bling Ring's Anachronistic Soundtrack

by Jonah Wolf

Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, which opened nationwide last weekend, pays homage to the celebrity culture of yesteryear. The plot, or rather the action (there isn't really a plot), consists of burglaries perpetrated by L.A. high schoolers throughout 2009 on the homes of Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox, Linday Lohan, Audrina Patridge and Orlando Bloom. Laughs are generated by the adoration the burglars project onto their no-talent (with the exception of Lohan?) victims. "I love her style," gasps ringleader Rebecca (played by Katie Chang, and based on Rachel Lee) while looking admiringly at photos of Patridge, who my editor tells me was on The Hills. Nicki (played by Emma Watson, based on Alexis Neiers), perhaps inspired by her mother's devotion to The Secret, seems to believe she can simply will herself into celebrity -- and sure enough, Neiers did come out of jail with her own reality show, Pretty Wild.

The Bling Ring works as a period piece, a look back at a time -- so close and yet so far -- when people cared about, and even admired, reality stars like Hilton and Patridge. That's why the music is such a problem. Characters are shown dancing in a club to Azealia Banks's "212," released at the tail end of 2011, and singing along with M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls," from early 2012. Of the soundtrack's 16 licensed songs, 11* postdate the real-life Bling Ring's October 2009 arrests, the film's ostensible ending point. Coppola has a history of anachronistic soundtracks, but the post-punk in Marie Antoinette was obviously intentional. This is just lazy, and it dilutes an otherwise insightful analysis of cultural history.

In a recent Pitchfork interview, Coppola explained, "I wanted the soundtrack to be in that world, but I also wanted good music that we would want to hear." Added music supervisor Brian Reitzell, "Neither of us listen to tons of current music, so I had to catch up." The two had reached out to Kanye West to orchestrate the score, but scheduling conflicts quashed the possibility. A shame, because West might have produced something as original as Skrillex's score for Spring Breakers (this year's other arty teensploitation heist flick). Failing that, Coppola and Reitzell ought to have aimed for accuracy instead of reprising the soundtrack to last year's Fashion Week. Here are some suggestions.

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