Sofia Coppola is no stranger to producing films that document the lives of the rich and famous: her 2010 film Somewhere looked at the hedonism of an aimless Hollywood actor, while perhaps her most famous feature, Lost In Translation, provided a glimpse into the (somewhat superficial) woes of the wealthy. Her latest work is of a similar vein, but this time the focus is notably different. We instead hone in on those who idolize such people and the idea of celebrity– and it would seem that their lives are just as juicy.
Based on true events, The Bling Ring follows a group of Southern Californian teens who get their kicks by breaking into and stealing from the homes of Hollywood’s hottest stars, including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, to name but a few. Filmed largely on location at Hilton’s real property (with her permission, this time), we watch the gang as they pose and pillage with unbelievable ease, even going as far as to post evidence of their conquests on social media websites. Their infatuation with the celebrity lifestyle is excessive and overwhelming; an obsession that will inevitably end in disaster once their luck runs out.
It’s cool, detached and so devoid of emotion (save for the bursts of drug-fueled euphoria) that it can only be intentional. These high-schoolers feel a sense of entitlement to the things they covet, clearly of the opinion that they could just as easily have been in a celebrity’s shoes, metaphorically and literally, had they been dealt different cards in life. For this reason their morality is entirely skewed, to the extent that these kids genuinely don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong, preferring to think that their eventual media coverage is down to their popularity, not their criminal convictions. Taking this into account, the tone of the film feels bitingly accurate. It’s also incredibly funny, aided by a great script and often using the characters’ deluded outlooks to great comedic effect.
Emma Watson has truly found her calling as the privileged and rebellious Nicki, embracing the role with sharp wit and a much-improved accent. Newcomer Katie Chang is excellent as the ruthless ringleader, Rebecca, as is Israel Broussard, who plays Marc. Through his character, the only one with the makings of a moral compass, we can see just below the surface of the superficiality. We get a glimpse of his desire to be accepted and of the pain of betrayal (which is realised in the cruellest of rejections: being ‘unfriended’ on Facebook).
The film plays into the hands of some obvious clichés, such as the cringe worthy teen language and the idea of an all-drinking, all-smoking youth culture without inhibitions. But perhaps this was Coppola’s point – to glamorise a culture on screen in the same way that celebrity culture is presented to these kids. And overall, it works. The Bling Ring might be superficial, but ultimately it’s loud, proud, and a lot of fun.