By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
The Bling Ring (A24)
Rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references.
Starring Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann, Carlos Miranda, Gavin Rossdale, Stacy Edwards, G. Mac Brown, Marc Coppola, Janet Song, Annie Fitzgerald.
Written by Sofia Coppola, based on the Vanity Fair article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins" by Nancy Jo Sales.
Directed by Sofia Coppola.
I can't stand reality shows, and I'm not very interested in what celebrities are up to. I especially loathe all the attention given to celebrities who are “famous for being famous,” like Paris Hilton and other (so-called) reality show alums. I just don't find much merit in sensationalizing the deeds and misdeeds of people who have nothing more to offer than good looks and tabloid fodder. Maybe the Apocalypse is upon us and there's nothing we can do about it, but I really don't think keeping tabs on the comings an goings of Lindsay Lohan or the Kardashians is worth more brain power it would take to remove navel lint. Such obsessions are the subject of the The Bling Ring, a movie based on real people who occupied their time by burglarizing the homes of celebrities and quasi-celebrities.
The story centers on a group of teenagers who live in upper class southern California families, but somehow end up in an alternative high school due to a few drug or behavioral problems. One of them is Marc (Irael Broussard), a new kid who catches the attention of the alluring Rebecca (Katie Chang). Rebecca invites Marc to tag along as she breaks into cars in upscale neighborhoods, looking for whatever booty they can grab and use to pawn or make opulent purchases on Rodeo Drive or other shopping centers. Rebecca introduces Marc to her other friends, including Nikki (Emma Watson) and her friend Sam (Taissa Farmiga). The thrill of breaking into cars soon runs ciold and the group decides to up the stakes by targeting homes of the rich and famous, starting with Paris Hilton (who appears in the film as herself). Soon, other friends join the group and make several “shopping” trips to Hilton's home, who seems mostly unaware and unprepared for such crimes. The delinquents branch out and hit the homes of Audrina Patritdge, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr, Megan Fox and others. Marc uses his computer skills (basically it's Google) to track when the celebrities will be out of town so they can get inside undetected.
As the true story goes, the folks who got involved in the crime ring eventually got caught and prosecuted, so there isn't much to spoil here. In the movie, the names of the kids in the involved were changed for legal reasons, I suppose.
The Bling Ring is like watching a very slow train wreck over and over again. The kids break in, steal clothes, money, jewelry and other keepsakes to help supply their apparent need for validity and the pretense of being famous without really paying for it – sort of like most reality show “celebrities” who have no more talent than looking gorgeous and engaging in abhorrent behavior. I suppose the movie's biggest irony is the final heist that takes place happens inside the home of Lindsay Lohan, who was in her own legal trouble for allegedly walking off with some things that didn't belong to her. I still haven't figured out if the Lindsay Lohan twist was supposed to be funny or sad, but I really couldn't care less. Treating the burglary of Lindsay Lohan as the greatest criminal caper in the movie is about as interesting as watching paint dry.
The Bling Ring is a story that makes us look at criminal behavior against celebrities in disgust, while inadvertently making us want to keep watching. It's sort of like celebrity voyeurism; a peep show that gives us a glimpse inside Lindsay Lohan's empty closet of dreams.
The performances in The Bling Ring border are absurd as dinner theater characterizations, right down to the quasi religious justification used by the kids and their helicopter parents (including Leslie Mann as a mom who uses some sort of self-affirmation prayer ritual to make sure her delinquent kids are pure in heart). Emma Watson seems to be doing the worst sloppy impersonation of a Valley girl, while other cast members come across as phony as the reality show celebrities they target.
In the end, The Bling Ring is a reality show about a reality show culture in a America that is the furthest thing from reality for anyone who does not worship the rich and famous. While most folks are just trying to keep food on their tables and stay alive, The Bling Ring is a reminder of the worst we can be. Some of the capers are amusing, but it gets old fast, unless you really, REALLY need to know what Paris Hilton keeps in her closet.
So, The Bling Ring is a waste of time, unless you really have a need to see how the other half lives and loses their stuff to a bunch of entitled kids.