The Bling Ring Director: Sofia Coppola Screenwriter: Sofia Coppola Cast: Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Erin Daniels, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Paris Hilton, Leslie Mann American Zoetrope | A24 Rated R | 98 Minutes Release Date: June 21, 2013
Live Fast, Die Young, Bad Girls Do It Well
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), The Bling Ring stars Emma Watson as a member of a gang of fame-obsessed L.A. teenagers who begin burglarizing the homes of the rich and famous.
The movie opens with a nighttime break-in, as kids scale a security gate and infiltrate a well-secured property in the Hollywood Hills. They snatch up thousands in exotic clothing, jewelry, and cash.
As the film jumps forward to their arrest and then flashes back to tell their story (via media interviews), Coppola reveals that this is Orlando Bloom’s house. Based on a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales, The Bling Ring is inspired by a 2008–2009 spree of L.A. robberies where high-schoolers from Calabasas, California — Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga), and Chloe (Claire Julien) — use the Internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts and target their homes for theft.
The celebrity-fixated rich kids break into the lavish homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, and Rachel Bilson among others. You would think these beyond-wealthy celebrities would have state-of-the-art security systems complete with guards and man-eating attack dogs but nope, most of these palatial estates are relatively unguarded, with keys left under the welcome mat. Coppola’s film shows just how easy it is to find a celebrity’s address – how little privacy they actually have – and how easy it is to exploit their fame and publicity for duplicitous deeds.
In Linda Holmes’ recent NPR article “At The Movies, The Women Are Gone,” she points out that, in many parts of the country right now, if you want to go to see a movie about a woman — any story about any woman — you can’t. There aren’t any. Multiplexes across the country are packed with movies like Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, The Internship, This is the End, The Great Gatsby, and The Hangover Part III – movies by men, for men, with little concern to female characters or audiences.
The Bling Ring is one of the few female-centric films playing in limited release right now, alongside The East, What Maisie Knew,Stories We Tell, and Greta Gerwig’s Frances Ha. Like Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, Coppola’s film sets out to study self-indulgent, shallow youths whose lack of responsibility makes them dangerous. The difference in the two films is that Korine sets out to provoke his audience while Coppola merely observes and reports, providing the viewer with opportunities to sympathize with two classes of entirely unlikeable people: spoiled rich kids and pampered celebutantes.
Coppola’s films often examine feminine self-definition and adolescence, usually in privileged circumstance. As the daughter of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, she had a unique childhood filled with celebrities and people obsessed with fame, which has translated into a series of films about celebrity, privilege, and the loneliness of being both privileged and famous. In Lost in Translation, Bill Murray plays an aging movie star who falls for a neglected young wife; Marie Antoinette examines the loneliness and celebrity of France’s iconic but ill-fated queen. in Somewhere Stephen Dorff plays a wayward actor who reexamines his life after his 11-year-old daughter comes to stay with him. In The Bling Ring, we witness a new generation of well-born women and how they define themselves; how they cure loneliness and longing with material things.
Newcomers Israel Broussard and Katie Chang provide memorable performances, but it’s Emma Watson (Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame) who shines brightest as Nicki, a fictionalized version of reality TV personality, aspiring model, and convicted felon Alexis Neiers. Watson continues to dodge a deadly Expecto Typecasto curse with roles in films like My Week with Marilyn, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Bling Ring, and a fun little part in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End. Her string of excellent acting choices will continue into 2014 when she appears in Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic, Noah.
Leslie Mann (This is 40) plays Nicki’s mother who wakes up her daughters with a jolly “Girls! Come take your Adderall!” yell from the kitchen – it’s reminiscent of Amy Poehler’s pink velour tracksuit character from Mean Girls, except this isn’t parody but rather reality (or a fictionalized retelling of reality, actually). I guess that’s the best way to describe this film, it’s Mean Girls meets Spring Breakers, minus James Franco; sadly there are no white rappers with cornrows from another planet, y’all.
If you’re suffering from genre fatigue and need a break from superhero movies and multi-million dollar franchises, try on The Bling Ring – Sofia Coppola’s best work since 2003’s Lost in Translation and one of most entertaining and culturally relevant films of the summer.