A compelling tale, based on true events, about a group of fame and wealth-obsessed teens who decide to steal from celebrities; ultimately netting $3 million in goods before getting caught.
Sofia Coppola’s films are much like Sofia herself: restrained, elegant, and refined. It’s exactly this mix that makes her movies as intriguing as they are polarizing. Coppola is not afraid to take her time, which means those looking for blockbuster pacing should go elsewhere. Admittedly her films are not for everyone, though this subject matter is some of her most accessible work to date. Sofia wrote, directed and produced this latest outing, based on Nancy Jo Sales’ superb Vanity Fair profile, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.” It’s reported that Sofia didn’t want to lend additional notoriety to the burglar’s actions and thus chose to change their names in the movie. (Though I think her success was negligible on this count. Interest in the case will surely spark anew with the release of this flick.)
Speaking of (relative) anonymity, Coppola took a gamble on casting mainly first-time unknowns, relying on Harry Potter alum Emma Watson to draw an audience, and it’s a gamble she soundly won. Emma succeeds in transcending her franchise; the other actors are irresistible and will surely earn future roles in no time.
Hermione, put your tongue back in your mouth – you’re in danger of summoning some magic wands!
The plot follows the infamous “Bling Ring” (also known as the Hollywood Hills Burglars), a group of teenagers who used Google, gossip sites, and social media to target the homes of celebrities and steal from them when they were out of town. Ringleader Rebecca Lee (named Rebecca Ahn in the film, played to perfection by newcomer Katie Chang) roped sensitive best friend Nick Prugo (Marc Hall in the film version, portrayed by another talented newcomer, Israel Broussard) into the burglaries, starting with stealing from unlocked cars and quickly escalating to in-home heists. Along the way the duo pick up a willing crew, including Nikki (played by Emma Watson, a stand-in for the real-life Alexis Neiers), Sam (Tess Taylor, Alexis’s “sister,” as acted by Taissa Farmiga), and Courtney Ames (Claire Julien as Chloe).
It doesn’t take long for the group to get comfortable with their luxe lifestyle. So comfortable, in fact, that they become completely brazen in their robberies, returning to one target’s home no less than five times. They’re so confident and leisurely during their crime-sprees that they take time to party in her “nightclub room” before loading designer bags with haute couture and jewelry. Said target is none other than Paris Hilton, who cooperated with the movie; she even allowed Coppola to film in her real house and let the actors rifle through her real things. Keep in mind this is no small feat, given that Hilton’s got to have some awareness how she (and her possessions, including her shoe collection that highlights her size 11 feet) will be portrayed.
After all, the teens picked her because they thought she was dumb (ahem) – and, indeed, when they arrive for their first hit, the house keys are under the mat and the front door is unlocked! Not an absentminded one time, mind you – every time they decided to pop over to do some “shopping.” The irony is that Paris has so many possessions (her home is a stunning study in both narcissism and consumerism) that she didn’t even realize things were missing until the group had swiped a near $2 million in jewelry. Think about that. And this is the case with the other celebrities they steal from as well. There weren’t security guards, alarms or attack dogs to contend with – only unlocked doors, or windows, and unattended homes. Unlocked doors, in this day and age? I didn’t realize Calabasas, CA. was actually Mayberry, USA!
Life, imitating art, imitating… oh, fuck it. This is so meta, it’s insane.
With so much meat to work with, it’s surprising that the film, though visually engaging, is ultimately empty. The Bling Ringers Google, burglarize and party, then repeat. At one point I almost became bored with the cycle – which I assume is part of the point. These teens were bored –and, even in the face of high-end goods, boredom is the ultimate luxury. These kids had no struggles; only time on their hands and vapid needs to fill. They never appeared to feel much fear or any remorse, only unrelenting entitlement. (In one scene they even brag of their crimes at a party and receive high-fives instead of disgust or concern.)
Such is Sofia’s brilliant (though, to some, unsatisfying) take on these fascinating events – she doesn’t comment, moralize or explain. Rather she lets the exploits take center stage, leaving the audience to form their own opinion, for better or worse. Those going into the film lacking knowledge of the real-life counterparts won’t have much to go on, as there is little to no character development. If you want to do some fun homework, I’d highly recommend reading the aforementioned Nancy Jo Sales article, as well as watching the short-lived realty series, Pretty Wild, which focuses on Bling Ringer Alexis Neiers, her “sister” Tess and their crazy Secret obsessed mom. The E! channel show contains only 9 episodes and is an insane must-see.
The problem with Coppola’s decision to focus on the events, rather than the story behind the events, leaves the viewer feeling distant and disengaged. Much like the items the teens were obsessed with, this film is a pretty bauble that doesn’t feed the soul. Again, that’s most likely the point.
Y’all look great – but I hope everyone looks good in orange!
In an age where the Kardashians make front-page news and every nanosecond of life is distilled on Facebook, the emptiness of The Bling Ring will continue to resonate.
Take a Drink: every time Rebecca instigates a “shopping” spree.
Take a Drink: every time Nikki’s family bonds over the “teachings” of The Secret (featuring an underutilized Leslie Mann as Nikki’s mom).
Take a Drink: every time they party at Paris Hiltons’ mansion!
Take a Drink: every time a brand name is mentioned, or real celebrity footage is shown.
Do a Shot: every time Marc is seen lounging around in Paris’s pink pumps.
Nothing, unless you want to stick around and enjoy the rockin’ soundtrack.