The Bling Ring
2013 - 90 minutes
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by: Sofia Coppola
(based on Nancy Jo Sales article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins")
Starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann
“Everyone loved us; we had so many beautiful and gorgeous things.” Such is the slightly more proud than contrite lament of one of the young insipid characters in writer/director Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” based on a real-life group of Southern California teens who robbed the homes of their favorite celebrities from October 2008 to August 2009. The names of the perpetrators have been changed, but their famous targets remain the same.
The quote comes from Marc (Israel Broussard), an uncomfortable outsider in his new alternative school until he meets Rebecca (Katie Chang). The pair gives each other the attention they desperately crave – Rebecca actually talks to Marc, and Marc gives Rebecca some edge and a gay friend to be seen with. In a world devoid of hands-on parenting and defined by image, their co-dependency masquerading as connection is a breeding ground for trouble.
Strolls through the neighborhood stealing purses from unlocked cars and joyrides in the convertible of a vacationing acquaintance’s parents plant a desire for more. And for the vacuous, celebrity-obsessed teen that lives a world without consequence there is an entitlement that would make stealing from your idols a logical means to outfit yourself with star-making essentials: Prada, Gucci, et all.
The pair’s circle of crime grows to include friends Nicki and Sam (Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga), whose mother/guardian (Leslie Mann) calls them to the kitchen for breakfast and their morning dose of Adderall, and Chloe (Claire Julien); all of them eager to indulge in the spoils and blind to any pesky moral dilemma. Only Marc ever shows the slightest hesitation and anything approaching reasonable decision-making. For this group, reasonable means stealing Paris Hilton’s clothes and jewelry, but not taking her dog.
Similar to Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers,” Coppola presents the events and her characters without passing any judgment. It is up to the viewer to take in the presentation and draw their own conclusions and assign their desired level of disgust. It’s a prudent choice, as it would be so easy to parody the vapidity of these teens, but in contrast to the colorful, dreamlike pop-infused world of Korine’s film, “The Bling Ring” has no illusions to anything beyond the obvious. There comes a point when the film takes on the personality of its subjects - empty and lacking anything that begs for critical analysis.
Naturally, in a world of teens and social media where nothing actually happens unless you can document and share it, incriminating Facebook photos and boastful statements to friends lead to the group’s capture. But there are no life lessons to be learned, only opportunities for self-promotion.
When Chloe is busted for DUI after a car accident, the next day is for bragging about her blood alcohol content level and bemoaning how picking up garbage is going to suck. Even after jail, Nicki’s concern is sharing (with painfully poor grammar) how she can use this to become a better person and how she was housed in the same prison wing as oft-troubled Lindsay Lohan. And also getting in a plug for her website.
If the message is that these kids are hopelessly self-absorbed and lost in an enabling environment, we understand that without having to sit through an 87 minute movie (that feels a lot longer), repeating the refrain of disrespectful detachment. Unlike the scariness implied with the ease of perusing social media to find when a celebrity is away from home and Googling their address, the simplicity of “The Bling Ring” – observant as it is - leaves it lacking any real bite.
© 2013 by Blake Crane