The Bling Ring (2013)
By Keeva Stratton
Sophia Coppola’s latest film is clearly one the fans are willing to line up for (quite literally, as it screened here for Sydney Film Festival, in the cold, after 9pm on a weeknight—and the line snaked astoundingly down two blocks outside the theatre).
Based on the true story of a series of brazen burglaries that targeted Hollywood’s young A-listers in 2009/10, the film peers into the lives of a group of Californian teens, whose lust for fame and fortune drives them on a criminal spree that eventually captures widespread attention.
A friendship forms between Marc and Rebecca, soon after he arrives at his new LA high school. What begins as simple rebellious fun soon becomes more serious, when the two start pilfering bags and wallets from the luxury vehicles left open around their neighbourhood. This petty theft infuses them with the confidence to try something larger, and when an old friend is out of town, they break into his house and wreak havoc with his mum’s designer wares.
Like many growing up in Calabasas (a popular suburb for LA’s wealthy), they are so close to young Hollywood that they soon become dangerously obsessed with it. The brands, the fashion, the clubs; and when an internet search reveals not only the information that Paris Hilton is out of town at a nightclub launch, but also the address of her home, the temptation to visit becomes simply too much.
Having successfully broken into Paris Hilton’s home, Nick and Rachel brag to their friends, who want to join them on their next ‘visit’. They do, and soon a group of five teens become the ‘Bling Ring’—a gang known for brazenly breaking into the homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge and Lindsay Lohan.
They take only a little each time, which is what initially delays any suspicion (apparently Paris has simply so many luxurious things that she doesn’t notice when a few designer handbags, jewellery and dresses go missing). And the more they get away with it, the more bulletproof they feel, openly discussing their conquests at parties, and posting images of their new acquisitions on Facebook.
Eventually, they are caught on camera, and the unchecked boasting and bragging about their exploits becomes their ultimate undoing. When the crimes are reported and their images shown, police were overwhelmed by anonymous callers ready to dob in their peers.
The Bling Ring again confirms Coppola’s talents for capturing youth. Here she takes us into the lives of these bold young people who indulge their need to possess over any sort of moral conundrum. It’s a remarkable story, and arguably poses the question of what could naturally be expected in an age where Hollywood saturates young people with an unrelentingly materialistic narrative of success and happiness.
For these kids—schooled by a culture of material need—it was natural for them take bold (and criminal) steps to fit in amongst their ‘popular crowd’. The Hiltons of the world have built their entire image on the basis of material indulgence; the ‘Bling Ring’ merely wanted their share, and were simply more willing than most to get it at any cost.
All of those involved in the real crimes spent some time behind bars (one even shared a cellblock with Lindsay Lohan, from whom she’d stolen). Despite pleading ‘no contest’ to the charges that totalled over $3 million in stolen goods, little remorse has been shown for their actions (Neiers even had her own reality TV show for some time on E!).
As a film, The Bling Ring is well made and certainly worth seeing. The true story on which it’s based seems more appropriately suited to have been derived from fiction—that it isn’t, should hopefully cause Hollywood to ponder the true impact of the youth culture it’s ceaselessly promoting.
Directed by: Sophia Coppola
Starring: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussad
Release Date: Showing currently as part of Sydney Film Festival
Reviewer rating: 4/5
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