Acclaimed director Sofia Coppola, known for depicting the lifestyles of the rich and famous through films such as Lost In Translation and Somewhere, uses her new feature The Bling Ring to tap into the obsession modern day teens have with celebrity culture. Potent in its candid and uncomfortable subject-matter (the script is based on real life events as recorded in Nancy Jo Sales’s 2010 Vanity Fair article The Suspects Wore Louboutins), the film finds itself being necessary despite its issues.
Finding himself at a new school in the Hollywood hills, Marc (Israel Broussard) soon befriends aloof Rebecca (Katie Chang), who introduces him to a life of living on the edge, breaking and entering into people’s home with her group of fame-obsessed friends. However, as their reckless behaviour escalates, and their targets become the rich and the famous, they quickly find themselves on the top of the LAPD’s most-wanted list and dangerously close to being caught.
Coppola’s latest is a sharp and perceptive depiction of the real life gang who stole over $3M worth of possessions from stars such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Kirsten Dunst. Using her background as the daughter of a famous filmmaker to her advantage, Coppola displays a firm understanding of both the culture and the characters she’s exploring. The script, though, is neutral and honest about its subject matter, with Coppola striving to ensure she doesn’t place the blame on her subjects, or to present them as monsters.
This distanced approach, which is mirrored by Coppola’s direction and the cinematographer’s shooting style, enables the entire ensemble of actors to deliver unforced, naturalistic performances that feel scarily real. It’s arguably what lifts The Bling Ring beyond its repetitive structure (there’s a rhythm to the film that will become obvious after the second or third robbery sequence) and slight feel and makes it so uncomfortable, yet undeniably addictive and interesting to watch.
Brossard delivers the stand-out performance as Marc, the character with the biggest hint of a moral compass. Chang and Emma Watson as the home-schooled Nicki inhabit their roles with a phenomenal skill, right down to the very last detail. It’s safe to say that Watson has now shaken off the smart, respectable image that Hermoine left her with. Her sharp wit shines and she more than holds up her end of the bargain, even during some of the films more ludicrous moments, like those shared with her on-screen mother, played by Leslie Mann.
It’s been noted elsewhere that The Bling Ring is Coppola’s most accessible and childish film. And, while this is true, there’s plenty more to The Bling Ring than first meets the eye. The obsession with celebrity culture is a topic that’s never been more timely, and Coppola uses this, along with her and her actors’ strengths, to create a distressing snapshot into how far some teens are willing to go to not only to steal their idols’ possessions, but to become them in any way possible.