'Bling Ring' is shiny, but ultimately emotionally cheap
05:00 AM, Jun 14, 2013
The Bling Ring is the cinematic equivalent of the vapid, superficial kids it features all visual panache and minimal substance.
Director Sofia Coppola’s fact-based film (**½ out of four; rated R; opens Friday in select cities) about teen burglars who stole more than $3 million in designer wear from celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan has visual flourishes and a few snarky laughs. But it doesn’t delve deeply enough to say much about the celebrity-worshiping, materialistic culture that spawned this crime spree. Nor does it examine the psyche of kids so obsessed with fashion and coolness and so lacking in morality that they think it’s OK to steal from the rich and wear the spoils around town. Coppola’s surface treatment makes the whole affair seem like bland satire.
The L.A.-area thieves four girls and a boy stole dresses, shoes, watches, sunglasses and even underwear from Hilton, Lohan, Rachel Bilson and Audrina Patridge. They tracked their addresses online and monitored when they’d be away. Access was easy: The gang entered through unlocked doors and windows, or found keys stashed under mats.
The cluelessness of the famous victims is almost as shocking as these kids’ sense of entitlement. What kind of moneyed people don’t have alarms or security systems? Why didn’t they lock their doors and windows? Do they live in such a bubble that they feel invulnerable?
None of these questions is answered, let alone posed. The film’s best moments are when Coppola captures the goings-on visually rather than with the kids’ inane dialogue. There is an evocative, wordless scene of a hillside home, shot from a distance, where kids in hoodies skitter between rooms, switch on lights, try on clothes and run out with them.
British-born Emma Watson plays Nicki, who is home-schooled by daffy mom Laurie (well-played by Leslie Mann). Nicki brags about belonging to a church, and after she’s arrested speaks with freakish earnestness about wanting to “lead a country.”
The group’s ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang) ropes in Marc (Israel Broussard), who falls under her celebrity-obsessed sway.
Disturbingly self-absorbed, these kids seem like budding sociopaths, with the possible exception of Marc, who mostly yearns to be accepted. He shows a jot of a conscience when he suggests that Rebecca should not abscond with Hilton’s dog, along with her designer bra and sunglasses.
Coppola has some empathy for her characters that’s hard for the viewer to muster. Disgust is the predominant emotion.
The actual story is slightly different (more houses were hit) and character details were tweaked (Watson’s real-life character was a pole dancing instructor), but the essence remains.
The film is like a more expertly shot episode of a reality show, with the final product as disposable as last year’s swag.