The internet is a goldmine and the Bling Ring mined it to achieve the lifestyle they so lusted over. Why imitate a celebrity when you can simply break into their homes and take what is theirs? Their lifestyle is now your lifestyle. Review of Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring after the jump.
In our society it’s considered normal to lust after celebrities and their lifestyle. We admire their looks, their beautiful homes, the fashion and the seemingly endless nights of partying and just being seen. For some, watching from afar is not enough, they want to become like the people they admire. After all, why should just a few have all the fun?
When Marc (Israel Broussard) moves to a new school he meets Rebecca (Katie Chang). Rebecca likes to steal things. She enters cars, breaks into the homes of those she knows and gathers as much cash and designer goods as possible to support her thirst for fashion and status. For Rebecca this isn’t enough however – she wants more. She has the taste for the high life and she is addicted. When reading an online gossip column they discover that Paris Hilton is out of town. A quick internet search finds her address and within a matter of hours Marc and Rebecca have broken into Paris Hilton’s home. For Rebecca this is akin to a kid in a candy story. It’s all there, everything she’s always dreamed of. What a turn on.
Rebecca shares their adventure with friends Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien), who think it’s hilarious. They want it. It’s kind of Peter Pan like after all, taking from the very rich (who won’t even notice it’s gone), and spreading the wealth around those poorer. If these celebrities are stupid enough to leave their homes unsecured, then the stuff must not be that important to them anyway. As the group feeds their addiction, their behavior becomes more and more erratic. House after house, coke hit after coke hit, hundred-dollar bills and Facebook posts which gloat about it all.
The Bling Ring is based on a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales about the life Hollywood Hill robberies which occurred in 2008 and 2009. The thieves used Google, social network sites and gossip columns to find the houses of the celebrities they crushed on and when those celebrities were out of town. When watching the film you shake your head thinking, “there’s no way it could be that easy”; but it was. These kids came from reasonable backgrounds, but they wanted more. They wanted the life they saw in the magazines, and it was easier to take it than to earn it.
It is this desire for status which fuels the film, and the motivations of the teenagers. To them, there was nothing more desirable than being the objects of desire themselves. They wanted to be the ones lusted over, admired and talked about. In Hollywood status is power, and power is intoxicating. The pursuit of an empty dream is a reality in a society that celebrities notoriety, and Coppola has successfully portrayed that sad part of our culture with this film.
Emma Watson is easily the stand out performer in a film filled with characters which are impossible to like or admire. Watson nails the Valley Girl emptiness with her vacant expressions, oddly worded “profound” statements about life and almost sexual desire for all things celebrity. She is easily becoming one of my favourite young actresses, as she brings something different to every role. I also really enjoyed Leslie Mann’s performance as Nicki’s mother, who home schooled her girls based on the philosophy of The Secret. It was great fun to watch her on screen; and I enjoyed this performance far more than the usual neurotic housewife/mother she often plays.
Pulsating electronic music, fast edits and crystal clear photography help create a glossy world which feels little more than surface deep. Sure it looks good, but when the music stops and the lights go up, what’s left is ugly. While the film is quite funny at times (you have to laugh at the ridiculousness of these people) it also is very repetitive. There are only so many burglaries and drug-fueled parties you can watch before it all gets rather bland. Coppola grew up in Hollywood, so we can only assume this is an accurate portrayal of the scene there. However, just because it’s accurate, doesn’t make it interesting to watch.
The Bling Ring is as vapid as the culture and people who it portrays. Does this mean Coppola has really nailed the Hollywood hollowness and shown a genuine snapshot of this lifestyle? Or is the film, by portraying these teenager’s acts, merely feeding into their desires and giving them something else to get off on? After all, what they want more than anything is status and notoriety. I’m not so sure that the film is anything more than part of the cycle of a culture which celebrates material wealth and fame more than anything else.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Sofia Coppola
Screenplay: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann
Release date(s): USA: June 21 2013; Australia: August 8 2013