Five teenagers semi-stealthily jump the gate to Paris Hilton’s Calabasas mansion as the camera maneuvers from security footage to P.O.V., slowly implicating the audience as a witness to the inevitable burglary about to go down. Once inside — nerves at a crescendo — the teens discover Hilton’s illustrious closet. With a flickering smile, Sleigh Bells’ "Crown On The Ground" aggressively kicks in, and we are catapulted from fear to pure adrenaline. When the teens finally make the descent down the driveway, bags overflowing, you almost want to run and catch up with them to find out where they are headed next.
Oscar-winning director Sofia Coppola’s fifth feature, The Bling Ring, hovers in many ethers of storytelling, both in its effort to recount the actual events of the real-life Bling Ring and to uncover some kind of thesis or take-away. At the film’s start, we are introduced to two convergent worlds: One, the impressionable Marc (Israel Broussard) and his flawed rise to "mean girls" status via ‘Queen B’ Rebecca (Katie Chang), and the other at Casa Adderall, home of sisters Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga). They meet out at a club through a mutual friend, Chloe (Claire Julien), and immediately form a bond over a shared love of excess, snapping relentless selfies on top of selfies on top of selfies.
Photo: Courtesy of A24.
Constantly in motion, but never with a destination in mind, these teens binge in search of a fix for their boredom. It starts with them grabbing a wallet out of an unlocked car. With this jolt of confidence, they make their first home robbery at an out-of-town friend’s home. With the affirmation of cash in hand and a shiny new car, they turn their attention to the rich and famous. Rebecca’s obsession with celebrity and Marc’s obsession with enabling Rebecca create the core of the story, with Watson’s Nicki serving the film’s ‘wow factor’ from the backseat.
On March 8 the literal poster girl of all things Bling Ring, sent out this tweet to her 7.5 million followers:
It’s true: Emma Watson appears in the film a lot less than the trailer would indicate. And, one of the film’s few less assured decisions lies in its presentation of Nicki’s home life. While the image of Nicki’s mother Laurie (Leslie Mann) holding up an Angelina Jolie mood board is a rewarding gag, Nicki seems to exist in a slightly more paradoxical world then her co-conspirators. While the story chronicles the demise of Marc, Nicki escapes the film just as she began —aloof — thus convoluting the message of the piece.
Katie Chang and Israel Broussard anchor the movie with simplicity and wonderment. In casting these roles with unknowns (“It always bugs me to see a 25-year-old playing a teenager,” says Coppola), she was able to squeeze out a genuine hunger that nurtures the film’s arc of obscurity to infamy.
Coppola is at her sharpest in reflecting an attitude of brazen disregard for, well, anything — versus the more popularized view of angsty entitlement often assigned to today's youth. The film is lightning fast (at 88 minutes) and wastes little time analyzing. Instead, it showcases celebrity robbing 101, and with it, the constant recalibration of confidence and anxiety. Never glamorizing nor mocking, the film is more a meditation on today’s culture than it is the story of celebrity burglaries. If drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll were on the hunt for an addition to their ubiquitous ménage à trois, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring offers up a viable, albeit souped-up, fourth wheel.
The Bling Ring will debut in theaters June 14.
Photo: Courtesy of A24.