Synopsis: Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.
Normally the words “inspired by real events” at the outset of a movie means that somewhere at sometime someone may have done something that vaguely resembles the next 90 minutes or so. Normally a large slice of artistic license is needed to make everyone prettier, funnier and everything that much sexier. In the case of The Bling Ring, however, Sophia Copolla has had enough accurate source material of wealth, scandal, celebrity and betrayal that artistic license wasn’t needed.
Based on Nancy Jo Sales’ 2010 Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”, and subsequent book, The Bling Ring is the surprisingly accurate true story of a group of privileged Los Angeles Valley kids who between October 2008 and August 2009 burglarised the homes of several prominent celebrities, most notably Paris Hilton who was targeted on numerous occasions. Motivated not through necessity or circumstance the group, led by Rachel Lee (Katie Chang), were motivated by boredom and aspiration. A desire to live a slice of celebrity lifestyle thrown down their throats 24 hrs a day by TMZ and gossip magazines. Their criminality didn’t so much fund a lifestyle, more it fed an insatiable appetite for a lifestyle that was only just beyond their reaches. And while the victims can’t be blamed for being targeted, what is most remarkable is how easy they made it for people to gain access to their property if they were to be targeted. Apparently burglar alarms in Los Angeles are so expensive that not even Paris Hilton can afford one….
Using a cast of largely unknowns (with the large exception of Emma Watson) and soaking everything in a mixture of California haze and fluorescent sin it is arguably Coppola’s best work since Lost In Translation. Consistent with her style it is full of stripped back and naturalistic performances to a point of feeling constantly semi-improvised, regardless of whether or not it actually is. At times, as is the danger of Coppola’s introspective indie styling it teeters dangerously close to the naval gazing line. Her trusted, young and inexperienced cast always pull it back though and collectively provide an immersive portrayal of a group of self entitled wannabes whose lives start and end with what kind of glasses they should be wearing to compliment their Chanel. And while it is a film that belongs very much to it’s young cast, Coppola does remind you that they are only as damaged as the adults in their lives, with one standout “homeschooling” scene showing Leslie Mann getting her daughters to describe why Angeline Jolie is an aspirational figure as part of their self-help book related curriculum.
After the mis-step of Marie Antoinette, and the Gus Van Sant-esque experiment in naval gazing endurance Somewhere, The Bling Ring feels like a return to form for Coppola who set such a high standard with her early work. And while some will struggle with the at times slow pacing it remains a crisp and damning indictment on the nature of social pressures to grow up too fast, have everything, aspire to be the wrong people, and the damaging effects of celebrity obsession.
Conclusion: At times slow and lacking in a standout performance to kick it along, nevertheless it is a fine return for Coppola and a fascinating story that is almost unbelievable until you find out it actually happened almost just like that.
Cast: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann