When you come across a series just three episodes long, you know the makers mean business. As such, the true-crime genre is hard to go wrong with it. The stories, more often than not, sort themselves out, even if the execution is off. The only element required to make them a success is that of direction. If the creator is organized and focused on the material, it is an easy road.
While the more titillating ones do have something special to elevate their material, others need the above ingredients. But for the entirety of the last two episodes, The Real Bling Ring had no intention of zeroing in on the crimes; it wanted to focus on the criminals. Unfortunately, even that attempt is weakened and the series turns out to be delirious, offering very little to you as a viewer.
The experience of watching the story unravel was meant to be something sensational. The people who committed the crimes sat in front of us and we could expect explosive insider information. Beans were ready to be spilled on how the entire thing came to be but instead, we get a botched-up job.
By the end, Sofia Coppola’s dramatization had a stronger impact and featured more sincere and authentic portrayals. It turns out, the criminals themselves aren’t interesting or special enough to make a difference. They stood in front of the camera either to boast about how they got away with it or stood to deny everything and clear their names.
There were no insights into human behavior that we come to expect from such offerings. All of the associated persons wore a mask to keep us at an arm’s distance from the truth. We never quite got down to it. In some sense, they used the documentary to do exactly what they wanted the crimes to do for them. Maybe not for Alexis, who seemingly feigned her entire sincerity trope but for everyone else, yes. Lee, one of the female Asst. DAs on the case said that “everyone wanted fame out of this case: even the police officers”. None had any intention to do justice or come clean.
The preachy tone of the director Miles Blayden-Ryall made matters worse. This creative choice to give air time to Nick, other commentators, and some guy named Markus out of nowhere, and talk about how social media and technology have changed our world proved to be a bad one. It distracted us and them from focusing on the mechanics of the case. There was a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode that only the things in police files and court files were relied upon. In addition to it, first-hand claims of Alexis and Nick gave direction to the structure. But in reality, it was only the latter that ever featured.
There were hardly any hard facts that came to the surface, which every true-crime aficionado can attest to add a certain kind of atmosphere to the storytelling.
Without knowing the setting, or setting it up properly, there is no suspension and sense of anticipation. We cannot fall back on our safety net in situations where things get a bit dull. The information was scarce and the accusatory attitude of everyone replaced that vacuum. What was even worse was how easily it all denigrated into name-calling and slanderous statements. Fingers were being pointed at each other, leaving us with no clue whom to sympathize with and how to process them.
The guiding light that I talked about went missing here. Our hands were not held, so to speak, till the end, making us mere spectators without purpose to keep watching on. There were strong undertones of non-seriousness from everyone involved in the project, which makes a huge difference here. Everything just seemed too random for our liking. Unfortunately, the writers and the director weren’t able to coagulate the important stuff into a compelling structure and allowed too many distractions to ruin the show.
Only faint commentary about the toxic celebrity culture, the impact of social media on individuality, and the exploitative nature of the internet came to the fore. There are no more significant takeaways from The Real Bling Ring. This is perhaps one of the weakest true-crime documentaries Netflix has offered us recently. In fact, it cannot be even called that because the crimes are so lightly discussed. The only crime here is turning it on when you have so many other choices elsewhere.
Verdict - 5/10