By Michael Calleri
Niagara Gazette — Some people worship having a lot of money and some people know there are traps that go along with being wealthy. Two movies, “Love Is All You Need” and “The Bling Ring,” explore the role money plays in their characters’ lives.
“Love Is All You Need” is a superbly rendered romantic comedy that is completely believable. The realistic film is from noted Danish director Susanne Bier and is written by Anders Thomas Jensen. The bittersweet story centers on Ida, a Copenhagen hairdresser, wonderfully played by Trine Dyrholm. She’s recently finished a harsh regimen of surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer. She and her husband are supposed to go to Sorrento, Italy for their daughter’s marriage to the son of a successful food broker (a very good Pierce Brosnan). However, when Ida comes home one day, she discovers her husband having sex with a co-worker. She puts on a brave face and is determined not to let this ruin the wedding. Her loutish spouse is also insistent on attending the ceremony, but they are absolutely not going together.
Further complications ensue at the airport and then in Italy, as the wedding week revolves around a series of irritating relatives, missed signals, and tough realizations. Through it all, Ida waits for word from her oncologist that she is cancer-free. Philip the food broker has money, lots of it. The ceremony is taking place at his villa with its seaside views and lemon trees. But he’s a widower and miserable, having never gotten over the death of his wife. He’s not pleased with any of his son’s in-laws, including Ida. Meanwhile, the future bride and groom will experience a bump in the road that you may not see coming.
“Love Is All You Need” is about mismatched souls finding some trust in each other despite the differences between them. Ida and Philip are middle-aged and the specter of cancer and the gloom of widowhood colors their lives. Yes, there’s that lovely villa in spectacular Sorrento, but they are both practical people. Neither is superficial. His money will not buy them happiness. Change will come slowly, if it comes at all. Director Bier has crafted a beautifully acted, life-enhancing comedic gem.
Sofia Coppola makes interesting films, even if she prefers not to probe too deeply into the psychology of her characters. With “The Bling Ring,” Coppola’s penchant for observing rather than analyzing takes its toll. This is the true story about a bunch of privileged southern California high school students, a group of girls and one guy, who decide that for kicks, they would break into the home of celebrities they admired. It turns out that some of the rich and famous would leave the key under the mat.
Once inside the looming Los Angeles mansions, the teenagers help themselves to the contents of the closets of such bold-faced names as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom. They make off with millions of dollars worth of designer clothes, jewelry, purses, paintings, knick-knacks, and shoes. Some items they wear. Some they pawn. At one point, they almost steal a dog.
The misadventures of the over-indulged made national headlines and the thieves became as famous as the empty materialists they worshipped. Hilton’s actual house is used in the movie, and her laughable taste in décor and the brain-choking excess of her possessions are beyond satirizing. You don’t even want to waste the energy to sneer.
Using their computers to track the whereabouts of their admired “stars,” so that they know when the houses are empty, the burglars also post images of themselves wearing the goods they’ve stolen. That they get caught and sentenced to jail confirms their stupidity.
There’s not much real acting in the movie, and the performers seem to be adlibbing their way through the proceedings. The only adult with any significant screen time, the mother of one of the thieves, is played by Leslie Mann, who does a caricature of a parent devoted to spiritual awareness and home-schooling. Mann lacks the talent to carry the part, so every time she shows up, the film wobbles worse than it’s already wobbling.
The leader of the gang, Rebecca, is a sociopath who knows how to manipulate those around her, especially Marc, the new kid in school. He’s like her puppy. Katie Chang as Rebecca and Israel Broussard as Marc can’t do anything with their hollow characters, and it’s obvious that they received little help from their director.
“The Bling Ring” is a superficial movie about shallow teenagers. Coppola never engages the audience. As director and writer, she interprets nothing. Watching it is like looking at magazine ads. This might as well have been a documentary. It's a thin, uncomplicated diversion, nothing more.Michael Calleri reviews films for Night and Day. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.