REVIEW: The Bling Ring [2013]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: R | Runtime: 90 minutes | Release Date: June 14th, 2013 (USA)
Studio: A24
Director(s): Sofia Coppola
Writer(s): Sofia Coppola / Nancy Jo Sales (Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins”)

“Let’s go shopping”

After years of stuffy, standoffish dramas about excess and the psychological turmoil of the rich in hopes audiences will feel pity for their woe-is-me First World Problems, writer/director Sofia Coppola finally finds her way inside the joke with The Bling Ring. This tale of vanity, celebrity idolization, and the entitlement of today’s youth—based on the Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales describing the infamous Hollywood Hills Burglaries from October 2008 to August 2009—finds the satirical bite necessary for its success. Because honestly, drug-addled brats with want for nothing (besides sane parents to take an interest) stealing from famous icons and train wrecks as though it’s their right can only captivate our waning indifference towards the lifestyle if it proceeds to mock their experience as the farce it was.

In come the clichéd, bored adolescent teens looking for excitement on a Friday night only to discover the glitz and glamour of hobnobbing with the stars isn’t quite quenching their thirst. There’s Rebecca (Katie Chang), a product of divorce with a deranged fascination to be Lindsay Lohan, a drug habit, and a complete disregard for personal property; Marc (Israel Broussard), the new kid with self esteem issues who cannot help loving the attention Rebecca gives despite knowing in the back of his head she’s using him as a lap-dog; and Nicki (Emma Watson), the hopeful Valley Girl model bragging about who she’s texting inside the club at 3am before a quick nap brings the next morning’s hungover home-schooled lesson fashioned after The Secret’s bogus philosophy from her Stepford mother (Leslie Mann).

These kids—along with Rebecca’s BFF Chloe (Claire Julien) and Nicki’s surrogate sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga)—are sadly the future of America, children more inclined to cheat and steal their way to the top rather than work a single day with pride. A generalization for sure, it’s actually exacerbated in Hollywood because many of those they look to fashion themselves on found their success doing just that. Our cultural fascination with living vicariously through others who oftentimes don’t deserve our attention has been bred by the same celebrities complaining their lives have been ruined by it, hypocritically hating the attention while cashing the checks it provides. Their lives are under a constant microscope and yet they do not lock their doors or set alarms when their addresses are a simple Google search away.

And that’s what makes this story so brilliant: the simplicity and sheer ease with which it took five high school students to steal over three million dollars of clothing, jewelry, and art from the likes of Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Megan Fox, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, and Ms. Lohan herself. All they had to do was troll entertainment sites putting a spotlight on exactly where all of them will be at any given moment, hop a fence, try a door/window, and revel in the myriad luxury items at their disposal. Get away with it once and of course you’ll wonder if a repeat visit will work. Do it three times and you’ll start to change things up with a new victim who “won’t miss a thing”. Get caught on camera without repercussions and you’ll believe yourself invincible.

Coppola sees the irony of just desserts and youthful stupidity in the technologically enhanced twenty-first century of Facebook and knowingly lets the intrinsically tragic comedy resulting to fill each frame. Whether in the cut scenes scattered throughout capturing the criminals candidly defending themselves, admitting their guilt, and actually using the exposure to advance their absolute lack of a career for fifteen minutes capable of landing them a reality TV show at worst or their cavalier attitudes when doing the deeds, The Bling Ring never finds itself glamorizing their actions beyond the joke. Coppola shows the insanity of knowing smiles, coaching from lawyers to escape the consequences of crimes everyone knows they committed, and the blankly ignorant stares of parents shocked and appalled it could have happened under their “watchful” eyes.

These are deplorable people seen through the hip music and high fashion they adopt as their own rather than become masked underneath. It’s fun to watch those with so much always wanting more—a gloriously nonsensical correlation that can only end in flames. Pure hubris is put on display for all to see alongside the cattiness and lack of morality/trust we so willingly let pass with little more than a slap on the wrist. Our society breeds these monsters—and I mean the victims and perpetrators of this case—by simply dismissing their actions with a smirk and a dream of one day having it fall in our laps too. We’re way too quick to reward undeserving charlatans with our attention and too forgiving when they burn us, laughing all the way to the bank in the process.

Everyone involved understands this fact whether actors smugly projecting the characters’ entitlement, real life victim Paris Hilton allowing her house to be filmed in and her vanity mocked, and Coppola finding creative ways to capture this notion of no one being indestructible. Chang and Watson perfectly impose the “mean girl” spirit onto their greedy brats while Broussard instills sympathy to provide the adventure’s one example of too-late remorse. But above performances and even technical genius—Audrina’s theft is a confident bit of filmmaking done in a single long shot aerial view of Rebecca and Marc freely traveling from glass-walled room to glass-walled room—I loved The Bling Ring’s transparency most. It’s ability to transform these crimes into a mirror for our complicity in bolstering our youth’s covetous nature of the unattainable and grotesque is its true success.

[1] Claire Julien, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Emma Watson in A24’s The Bling Ring (2013)
[2] Emma Watson stars as Nicki in A24’s The Bling Ring (2013)
[3] Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien and Leslie Mann in A24’s The Bling Ring (2013)

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