Title: The Bling Ring
Director: Sofia Coppola
Major Players: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga
Out of five? 3.5
Welcome to the world of the wannabe. Where being famous is all that matters – regardless of any talent or ability – and where the trappings of fame are just as important. As long as they have the right labels.
Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring is based on the true story in Vanity Fair about a group of young people in Los Angeles who set out to rob the homes of the celebs they were obsessed with. Hey, they wanted the celebrity life and getting in the houses was easy, so why not? But they just couldn’t resist telling the world about their exploits via the social media that ran their lives ………..
The girls just wannabe famous. End of. At best, they have vague aspirations to be models or performers of some description – but they don’t really want to be anything other than famous. They come from affluent families – not fabulously rich, but wealthy enough to make them grade one spoilt brats and for them not to need to steal designer goods. So why do it? There’s the luxury items themselves, the buzz of doing something illegal (the drugs they take don’t give them the same high any more), the kudos it gives them amongst their friends when word gets out – and, for some of them, the opportunity that their notoriety and subsequent publicity provides. Oh, and the fact that the celebrities made it so easy – Paris Hilton’s front door key is kept under the mat, others don’t switch on their burglar alarms. That they are so, like, asking for it.
Most of the gang are just naïve and easily led. Marc (Israel Broussard) is drawn in by the group’s ring-leader, Rebecca (Katie Chang), who gets the theft habit from robbing cars – and then aims higher. She pulls in various friends, including Nicki (Emma Watson), who takes to it like a duck to water. But there’s something more calculating and almost sinister about her. She’s the one who talks to Vanity Fair – in the presence of her lawyers, of course – describing her charity work and ambitions to promote peace in the world. It all sounds rather like a Miss World interview. And, once out of jail, she’s interviewed on TV – a great opportunity to promote her new website.
This is a period piece – well, it will be in twenty years’ time. As an examination of celebrity obsession in the 2010s, it’s smart, sassy – and bitingly accurate. It’s also very funny: a lot of the laughs come from the fact that the wannabes are simply vacuous. The others come from their parents who, while adoring their children, may as well be sharing their homes with strangers. Leslie Mann is hilarious as Nicki’s mother, who home schools her daughters in some flaky self-improving philosophy – much to their irritation.
Hers is not the only good performance. Emma Watson makes the move to something more adult with ease and style, and Israel Broussard is well cast as the easily-influenced Marc who, unlike most of his companions, has some moral compass. He’s just too weak to follow it.
Some of the gang’s targets make cameo appearances, including Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, who gave Coppola permission to film in her house. It’s another world and with its own dancing room, complete with pole (which Nicki puts to good use) and accessorised with cushions bedecked with the owner’s portrait, it reveals much about her – albeit unconsciously.
Coppola is on familiar territory here. Lost In Translation and The Virgin Suicides were both about young, trapped girls. While Lost In Translation was delicate and touching, The Bling Ring has a much lighter mood and uses humour to great effect – not a usual characteristic of a Coppola movie. It’s remarkable that such a likeable film is actually about a group of, in the main, unlikeable characters.