Sofia Coppola’s much anticipated film, The Bling Ring, is one that will divide its audience. It can be agreed that, whether you love or hate the film, this is Coppola’s most disappointing outing to date. The auteur’s fifth feature continues her examination of people in a position of privilege and celebrity. This time she positions her characters on the outside of this world, not just peering in but doing everything they can to find themselves inside it.
The Bling Ring tells the true story of a group of Southern California teenagers who broke into the homes of celebrities and stole over $3 million in clothes, jewellery, accessories and cash over a period in 2008/9. Coppola based The Bling Ring on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article The Suspects Wore Louboutins. Aside from changing the names, she sticks quite closely with the material provided in the article.
Marc (Isreal Broussard) moves to a new school and is quickly befriended by Rebecca (Katie Chang) and Chloe (Claire Julien). He soon finds himself a part of Rebecca’s favourte past time, petty theft. While at a party they go outside in search of unlocked cars and take any valuables and cash inside. Once they’ve acquired some cash, the teens spend most nights out in clubs drinking, taking drugs and partying in the same venues as Paris Hilton and Kirsten Dunst, who both make appearances. For now, being in close proximity to the lives (and more importantly, the possessions) that they crave is enough. On these nights out the trio are joined by Nicki (Emma Watson) and her adopted sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga). The two girls are home-schooled by their mother (Leslie Mann) who bases her lessons on the teachings found in The Secret. Eventually, being close to the lifestlye and designer labels they crave is not enough. Once they realise that the internet can inform them where celebrities live, when they’ll be out of town and the best way to gain entry the group waste no time. Pretty soon, breaking and entering is standard in their lives. The spree which takes place over a number of months sees them break into Paris Hilton’s residence several times even taking the time to lounge around and befriend her dog. Hilton actually gave permission for Coppola to film in her home. This is unsettling information as you realise that she genuinely has her own image plastered all over her home, even on her cushions. The teens are inevitably discovered, but even this doesn’t provide them with a much needed reality check.
The Bling Ring is a double edged sword of sorts. The thing that makes it interesting is also what will be criticised most. Coppola has never been one to judge or condemn her subjects, choosing instead to simply observe. The problem is that there is very little character exploration involved here. The film is all about surface and style and this will be problematic for some. However, it can be argued that this is precisely the point.
Coppola as always draws great performances from her young cast of predominantly newcomers. Katie Chang is strong as the ringleader of the group, easily conveying how the crime becomes an utterly banal act in their lives. Watson has received most of the focus from the media, not unlike her character Nicki. Nicki is the most fame hungry of the group and takes advantage of her fifteen minutes much more than the rest. Watson is prone to unintentional overacting but hits her highs when Nicki finds herself in the media spotlight. Both Watson and Leslie Mann provide much of the humour here and are fantastic together.
This film is Coppola’s weakest to date but it is still an interesting watch for those of you who enjoy her sense of ennui. As always the film is visually stunning and in tune with its subject matter. The soundtrack is typically on point featuring tracks from Kanye, Frank Ocean, MIA and Sleigh Bells.