THE BLING RING
They make stealing Paris Hilton’s junk look so fun.
Sofia Coppola’s new film, The Bling Ring, focuses on the true-story of the California teens who burglarized a veritable who’s-who’s of young celebs of the Paris Hilton/Lohan ilk. These teens were not your average criminals looking for jewelry to fence. No, the Bling Ring want to steal the celebrity’s fame, their aura, and, yes, their clothes and jewelry too. You see, these teens have been raised completely in the all-encompassing world of social media, reality television & lurid celebrity pop culture. These teens turn on the television (ha!) or their iPhone to see the glamorous lives of these pseudo-celebs which they want for themselves. Every teenager wants to be accepted.
It all starts when the lonely, new-kid-in-town Marc (Israel Broussard) unexpectedly meets Rebecca (Katie Chang) at high school. Make that Rebecca just decides she wants him to be her friend. Not bad for the new kid. The two of them quickly bond over small things like breaking into cars, petty theft and other bored teenager hijinks. Then at some point the ante is upped to breaking into celeb houses, such as their “hero” Paris Hilton. These medicated teens add several more friends to their “visits” of celeb Cribs, including Nicki (Emma Watson in an amazing, hypnotic performance) and her sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga). The kids use the celebrity’s PR machines against them by finding out what celebs are out-of-town to determine which house to break into. After more and more break-ins, the gang’s exploits start to show up on the news. Instead of scaling back their break-ins, they feed off their new celebrity status.
Now the teens are “famous” yet they have no one to trade off of their new found celebrity status since they are criminals. Life can be so cruel. Like all great things, the robbery and breaks-ins come to end. The teens are eventually caught and arrested. The real-life Nicki, Alexis Neiers, managed to parlay her infamy into her own reality tv show (video clip at the bottom). What a perfect commentary on the whole movie. In the media-saturated world we live in with 24/7, TMZ-like coverage everywhere, who do you really blame for the motivation for what these teens did? Can we just blame the parents? Leslie Mann plays Nicki & Sam’s mother as a stereotypical West Coast, naive New-age goof complete with home-schooling and lessons from The Secret. The other teens come from broken homes with distracted parents, are they all to blame? Is it culture’s fault which would thereby implicate Hollywood and the machinery that surrounds the corporate celeb culture? Probably all of the above to some degree although The Bling Ring refuses an easy answer which adds to the film’s intrigue.
Coppola’s film builds a slow, hypnotic tale that doesn’t easily lend itself to interpretation. There are numerous visually-arresting, night-time shots of the kids running through yards between the mansions of the rich-and-famous. The film is not so concerned with plot as it is pretty clear Coppola’s main focus for the film is creating atmosphere. It’s also flat-out refreshing to see a film like The Bling Ring treat teenagers as the confused, young human beings who don’t understand where their feelings and desires come from. These are not the typical Hollywood preternatural, world-wise teens who just so happen to have a few pearls of wisdom which can only be gained from getting knocked around in life. No, these are confused kids drawn to the glowing light of celebrity like hungry moths. Who would’ve thought this story, based on Nancy Jo Sale’s Vanity Fair article, would turn into such an entrancing tale of 21st century wayward youths without any heavy-handed attempts at moralizing? Kudos, Sofia.
Alexis Neiers, the real-life Nicki, from her reality show “Pretty Wild.”
Top shelf stuff there.