The Bling Ring: These kids aren’t alright

June 21, 2013

The Bling Ring


Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann, Carlos Miranda, Gavin Rossdale

Rating: Rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references.

Running Time: 90 minutes

By Dan Lybarger
for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and bda

The Bling Ring lacks the sex of Kids and the murder of River’s Edge, but in its own way, it’s just as disturbing.

Sofia Coppola, who gave us Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, recounts a real string of robberies from 2008 to 2009 where the thieves were robbing from Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson and other “heir heads.”cq PM Sometimes the thieves would hit the same house as many as eight times before the string of burglaries finally came to an end.

As Coppola, working from Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” reveals, the thieves were hardly master criminals (the victims, despite spending a fortune on security cameras and devices, left their doors and windows open), and most were still in their teens.

While youngsters getting into trouble with the law is as old as cinema itself (in movies like Dead End and Angels with Dirty Faces), The Bling Ring is weirdly engrossing because this bunch of teen thieves seems motivated not by money but by the idolization of reality stars.

A young outcast named Marc (Israel Broussard) can’t fit in academically and is sent to a new school because of an unacceptably high string of absences. The lad quickly befriends a young woman named Rebeccacq PM (Katie Chang) who shares his fascination with fashion and celebrity culture and who intends to start her own fragrance and clothing lines. Neither has a clue how one might get into such a livelihood, but if Paris Hilton can do it without seeming to break a sweat, why can’t they?

The two also start a habit that’s as bizarre as it is unsettling. The two drop uninvited into the homes of celebs they admire for their taste in clothes. They then grab both cash and seemingly worthless items like underwear as a form of homage.

They post pictures of themselves wearing the loot online and even brag to their friends while they’re clubbing. Their friends, instead of admonishing Marc and Rebecca, start to join them in the surreal heists. One, Nicki (Harry Potter veteran Emma Watson), boasts of charity work when she isn’t stealing. Chole (Claire Julien) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) even recruit Sam’s (Carlos Miranda) boyfriend to help out.

Since her directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides, Coppola has a demonstrated a formidable eye for composition. With The Bling Ring, she also demonstrates an acidic sense of humor that comes almost word-for-word from Sales’ reporting and court records. Much of Nicki’s pseudo-humanitarian blather comes straight from the mouth of her real-life counterpart.

It’s hysterically funny to see a Brown University student and the woman who once played the astonishingly bright Hermione Granger handle Valley Girl-speak the way Itzhak Perlman handles a bow.

Leslie Mann is a riot as Nicki’s homeschooling mother who treats The Secret as if it were the Bible or the Koran. Having been raised Baptist, I can say we have some strange beliefs, but it’s no wonder Nicki can’t see how charity work is incompatible with larceny.

A child of the rich-and-famous herself (her cousins include Nicolas Cage and Jason Schwartzman), Coppola is keenly aware of the irony in her tale. In a culture where we make entertainment from the foibles of the rich, famous and not-so-bright, is it any wonder these youngsters think a DUI arrest a rite of passage and TMZ an honor roll?

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