6/27/2013 - Teens — full of privilege but not so much smarts — rob celebrities in The Bling Ring, a Sofia Coppola movie based on the Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.”
On his first day at a high school for kids who have messed up at other high schools (specifically, it appears, upper-middle-class and richer kids who have messed up), Marc (Israel Broussard) meets Rebecca (Katie Chang). Rebecca likes stuff, specifically nice stuff — Birkin bags, fancy cars, the shoes she see celebrities wearing, cocaine. Though her family seems to have some unspecified amount of wealth (or, perhaps, because her family has some unspecified amount of wealth), Rebecca particularly enjoys getting these things by stealing them. First, she and Marc start by trying the car doors they pass in a good neighborhood — eventually, they find open cars that get them drugs, money and even the car itself. Then she starts walking in to unlocked homes. She convinces Marc to come with her to walk in to, and take stuff from, the home of someone he knows who is out of town on vacation. Later, they figure out where Paris Hilton lives and, on an evening they know she’ll be out of town, they go to her house, unlock the door using the key under the mat and go inside.
The trip to Paris’ house is as much about being in her house — here are her dresses! here is her night club room, complete with stripper pole! — as it is about the stuff they take from her. Eventually, Rebecca’s friends find out about their Paris visit and want to go as well. The spectacularly vapid Nicki (Emma Watson), the obviously trouble-making Chloe (Claire Julien), Nicki’s friend Sam (Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera) and eventually even her little sister Emily (Georgia Rock) all join in for the B&Es, the theft of celebrity stuff (Megan Fox’s gun, Orlando Bloom’s watches) and the nonchalant drug use. While these kids might have the sense to wear hoodies, they don’t do a perfect job of keeping their faces covered, nor do they think twice about posting photos of themselves with their loot on their Facebook pages.
Sofia Coppola is like the Jane Goodall of privileged girls. No, this is not your most sympathetic group to study, but I kind of enjoy her blankfaced, every-so-slightly arched eyebrow look at, say, a French royal more concerned with sleeve length on her dress and the whereabouts of her puppy than a coming war. Or, in this case, a girl who, in her too-short “conservative” court attire, looks earnestly into the TV cameras and calls her forthcoming prosecution for robbery “a learning lesson” and then professes a desire to lead a charity. This speech is delivered by Nicki, who comes off as an H&M knockoff version of every celebrity who has ever screwed up and promised better behavior from now on. (So is her insistence that “The Truth,” when it comes out, will prove her innocence.) Coppola holds her characters at arm’s length; you don’t see into their heads or their hearts (though you suspect both would be fairly empty). Nor, however, does she allow you to openly mock them — after all, we know who Megan Fox is, we know what TMZ is, it’s not like we’re not all at least a little part of the culture these kids worship.
Watson’s performance — the most standout but probably because she is the best known — is solid. This Is the End showed she has a sense of humor about herself; The Bling Ring shows she’s not afraid to be despicable, right down to her modern Valley Girl accent. Credit also goes to Leslie Mann, who plays Nicki’s dippy mother who homeschools her daughters based on the teaching of The Secret. Her blend of New Age nonsense and celebrity-stage-mom-ness is kind of perfect.
The Bling Ring is cool, maybe too cool, in both senses of the word. But it is an enjoyable little E!-worthy reenactment of a true Hollywood tale. B
Rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references. Written and directed by Sophia Coppola, from the article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales in Vanity Fair, The Bling Ring is an hour and 30 minutes long and is distributed by A24.