On the surface, “The Bling Ring” is an entertaining re-creation of crimes inflicted on a batch of club-hopping stars: Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, Paris Hilton and their ilk.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
But as with filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s previous efforts “Lost in Translation” and “Somewhere,” it’s as much a damning deconstruction of a coveted lifestyle as it is a travelogue of beautiful people doing bad things.
The five principal offenders in the infamous Hollywood Hills burglaries aren’t stealing from celebrities because they need money. It’s not out of spite for these wealthy victims. They do it because they want to be the celebs. They want to wear the same designer clothes and exotic jewelry. Display the same high-end artwork in their own rooms. Look out from behind identical $900 Chanel sunglasses.
Although Coppola earns screenwriting credit, the material is drawn from Nancy Jo Sales’ scathing Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins.” The movie is structured more like “The Social Network,” where flashbacks are interspersed with the criminals giving after-the-fact depositions or press interviews.
Bold high schooler Rebecca (Katie Chang) finds an unlikely ally in the withdrawn new kid, Marc (Israel Broussard). Together they discover that many of the rich and famous don’t have the time or mental faculties to lock the doors of their multi-million-dollar mansions. A little Internet snooping reveals when these luminaries are gone shooting a movie or appearing at a charity event.
Rebecca and Marc begin waltzing into the empty homes of TMZ icons such as Audrina Patridge, pilfering thousands of dollars in merchandise. Also recruited into this cabal — eventually known as the Bling Ring — are gorgeous pals Chloe (Claire Julien), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Nicki (Emma Watson, making her first starring role in a movie not based on a book).
“Let’s go shopping,” Rebecca declares before hurdling the security gate of another clueless glamor queen.
There’s something undeniably captivating about watching these aimless, vacuous hipsters removing the overpriced possessions of aimless, vacuous celebrities. The scenes are staged with Coppola’s signature naturalism and are well-lensed by cinematographer Harris Savides (“American Gangster”) — his last project before succumbing to brain cancer.
The gang made six raids on the garish, pack-ratting estate of Hilton before she realized anything went missing. Credit goes to the hotel heiress for allowing Coppola to film in her actual home where the crimes occurred. One look at this personal shrine-to-oneself (yes, those throw pillows are adorned with the image of Hilton’s own face), and there’s never a question whether this is a set or shot on location; the truth is far wackier than any production designer’s vision of it.
All told, the teens walked away with more than $3 million in cash and goods before the police caught up. That’s when Coppola really has fun, as the criminals play to the media, believing themselves heroes or victims or “good kids at heart who learned their lesson.” But what they really end up is famous — which is their ultimate desire in the first place.
Rebecca asks a detective, “Have you spoken to any of the victims?”
He responds, “I’ve spoken to all the victims.”
She asks, “Really? What did Lindsay say?”
Ironically, the real “Nicki” — former reality TV star Alexis Neiers — would serve slap-on-the-hand jail time in the same cell block as DUI offender Lohan. Only this time instead of wearing the same Louis Vuitton blouse and Jimmy Choo pumps, they shared identical orange jumpsuits.