Starring Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann and Gavin Rossdale. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Playing at GTA theatres. 91 minutes.
OMG, it’s Lifestyles of the Vacant and Greedy!
Sofia Coppola’s latest film, The Bling Ring, takes a shallow look at the not-very-deep subjects of celebrity worship and self-entitlement. It has nothing to say about kids who had nothing better to do than to thieve from the rich and famous.
It’s a “based on true events” story of Hollywood high schoolers who stole nearly $3 million worth of clothes, jewelry and other valuables from the unlocked homes of such celebrities as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom and Meghan Fox from 2008-09, before cops finally stopped their crime spree.
Writer/director Coppola wobbles between factual account, dramatic invention and straight satire. She takes a few good jabs at society’s obsession with celebrities and consumerism, but none of the blows carry any weight. The only thing we really learn is that celebrities have a lot of stuff and they’re far too trusting.
The Bling Ring, based on a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales that caught Coppola’s eye, makes full use of the Internet culture that allowed the high schoolers to so brazenly loot the homes of the famous. They used Google Earth to locate celebrity addresses, and their crime spree was exposed in part because they bragged about their haul on Facebook.
Coppola’s considerable strength as a filmmaker comes through more when she approaches a topic indirectly, as she did with alienation and loneliness in her best movies, Lost In Translation and Somewhere.
There’s a moment like this in The Bling Ring. Coppola lets her camera stand back and watch as the light-fingered truants run through a mansion, lit up like a birthday cake, as if they’re mice scurrying for midnight treats. The insightful scene requires no words, but there are precious few moments like this.
When Coppola is too on the nose, as she also was with Marie Antoinette, she risks being as vapid as her subjects. Sure, the world is full of self-absorbed brats who think they can do whatever they want, while also flaunting it 24/7 on the Internet.
But why did these particular kids do these brazen crimes? Was it really a simple case of envy and greed (“I need some Chanel”), or were deeper motives afoot? Why did they think they could get away with it? Had they never thought of security cameras and silent alarms? And what did their celebrity prey feel about being victims?
We’re left guessing on all counts, although it could be that those celebs are every bit as vacant as the morons who pillaged them. Paris Hilton reportedly said she didn’t notice the thefts from her obscene pile of bling until the gang had made multiple forays. Perhaps that’s comment enough.
The undistinguished young cast of The Bling Ring has just one standout, and that’s Emma Watson, who plays one of the most vacuous of the juvenile thieves. We know her best as the brainy Hermione from the Harry Potter movies, and she can obviously do brainless equally well.