'The Bling Ringâ Movie Review: Celebrity Worship Gone Too Far
In The Bling Ring, director Sophia Coppola brings to the big screen the fictionalized true story of a group of affluent California teens who, because of their obsession with celebrities and fame, decide to raid the closets of their most cherished fashion icons. Why you ask? Because they’re young, beautiful and simply because they can!
The Bling Ring stars Emma Watson as one of the bandits who robbed the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, among others. Watson plays one of five entitled clueless delinquents who utilized Google to search for the addresses of celebrities they envied in order to find their homes and steal items such as incredibly expensive jewelry, luxury handbags, and shoes galore — and at one time almost daring to take Hilton’s dog — out of sheer boredom and a belief that they wouldn’t get caught.
The story is told from the perspective of the only guy in the group, Marc (Israel Broussard), a self-conscious teen new to a Los Angeles alternative school who befriends Rebecca (Katie Chang) — the mastermind behind the raids — Chloe (Claire Julien), Nicki (Watson) and her adopted sister, Emily (Georgia Rock). Soon the pack of young bandits finds out how easy it is to rob Hollywood blind. Surprisingly, with most of the homes left unlocked or with a key hidden under the mat on the front steps, the group simply hits up the latest blog to find out which celebrities are out of town or busy at glamorous parties, drives over to the homes and racks up $3 million in stolen goods by the time they are caught.
The movie, especially with regard to Nicki’s story line, is identical to scenes filmed from E!’s 2009 reality show Pretty Wild, which followed real life Bling Ringer Alexis Neirs — the inspiration behind Watson’s character. In the film Nicki and Emily are homeschooled by their equally clueless and eccentric mother (Leslie Mann) according to the principles of “The Secret," and fed Adderall regularly, just like former Playboy model Andrea Arlington, the real mom to Neirs and her two sisters.
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It was utterly astounding to see how easy it was for these teens to break into these homes almost completely unnoticed — they robbed Hilton's home numerous times before they were caught. They envied the celebrity lifestyles so much that they decided to not only wear the goods they stole, but become regulars at the hottest clubs their victims frequently attended, living a completely delusional tale of how to climb up the social ladder and pick up drug habits along the way.
My first impression after watching this film was that it was another eye-roll worthy tale of spoiled misfits desperately seeking validation by aspiring to be like so many socialites. But then it hit me that this a reality of our culture today. It’s easy to forget that the film is based on a true story because of how absurd the premise seems. And it’s sad but true that taking selfies, wearing designer labels and suffering from a drug habit — just to say you’ve had one — are exactly the issues facing teens and young adults in a culture that’s obsessed with celebrities. Gone are the days of seeking to further one’s self academically or artistically. Now it’s all about the “get-famous-get-rich” scheme in the hopes of becoming the next Kim Kardashian.
Coppola isn’t trying to tell a story solely about self-involved, self-obsessed youngsters, who for not one second thought about the consequences of their crimes—or in fact that what they were committing were crimes at all — but rather is making a statement about the culture that shaped them. For that, she does a fantastic job of highlighting the naiveté of the privileged and exploiting the society that created them.
Watson gives a screen-stealing performance, far from the goody-two-shoed Hermoine Granger, and steps into the valley girl socialite we never knew she could be. A totally new direction for Watson, her character Nicki is the most exciting to watch, which is interesting as she’s a supporting character up until the last third of the film.
Watson is also the only familiar face in a leading cast of newcomers. That being said, it’s actually very refreshing to see such a young and new cast give the performances that will undoubtedly launch their careers. All of the actors make you believe that they are indeed as shallow as the characters they are portraying.
With cameos from real life victims Lohan and Hilton — the latter of whom let Copolla shoot inside her actual mansion — The Bling Ring gives viewers a look into the lives of teens who got carried away with envying the spotlight. Copolla is known for making films centered on the complexities of youth (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette). This is probably the best movie to come out in years that really hones in on the vain, narcissistic, amoral society we live in today.
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