Arts Review, The Arts

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring featured image

Photo from

Sofia Coppola, director and writer based on the Vanity Fair article The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales

Starring: Katie Chang (Rebecca/actually Rachel Lee), Israel Broussard (Marc/Nick Prugo), Emma Watson (Nicki/Alexis Neiers), Claire Julien (Chloe/Courtney Ames), Taissa Farmiga (Tess Taylor), Georgia Rock (Emily/Gabby Neiers), Leslie Mann (Laurie/Andrea Arlington-Dunn), Annie Fitzgerald (Kate/Nancy Jo Sales), Paris Hilton

The buzz

Media and the public have been excited about Hollywood insider Sofia Coppola dramatizing the “bling ring” since the project was first announced two years ago. Though Coppola claims that she isn’t a former Hollywood brat—and she’s probably right—the idea of her tackling the real-life tale of a group of celebrity seeking adolescents who stole millions of dollars of jewelry and other “bling” from the likes of Paris Hilton and Audrina Patridge certainly sounds delicious.

The much-anticipated film premiered to respectable reviews at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is now in wide release in the US.

The genres

Celebrity culture dramatized; a look at adolescent ennui; crime thriller

The premise

In 2008 and 2009, a group of disaffected teenagers attending an alternative high school in the Hollywood Hills, robbed celebrities of nearly $3 million dollars. The gang knew when their victims were away by following websites and newsfeeds that told when people like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Audrina Patridge, Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson were away on shoots or going to prominent parties.

Ringleader Rebecca (actually Rachel Lee) and her main accomplice Marc (Nick Prugo) started the robberies out of boredom, it seems. After a while, some of their friends found out and joined them: Nicki/Alexis Neiers, Chloe/Courtney Ames, Tess Taylor and Emily/Gabby Neiers. All of them were obsessed with glamour and great clothing—and with the people they were robbing. Eventually, things got out of hand. Too much had been stolen and too many people knew who had been committing the robberies.

Busted, they all went to trial and served time in jail. But not much time—they’re all out now.

The performances

Coppola went with a mainly unknown cast, which gives the film a curiously existential affectless quality. With the exception of Katie Chang, who has charisma and intelligence, none of the newbies really register all that well.

But Leslie Mann, as the religious single mom of two of the thieves and Emma Watson as her older daughter Nicki/Alexis are effortless scene-stealers. They dominate every scene they’re in.

The director and writer

Sofia Coppola has a cool, distanced style. Even in her biggest hit Lost in Translation, she allows the relationship between Bill Murray’s aging Hollywood star and Scarlett Johansen’s bored bride to be mysterious and unresolved. She is good at directing scenes that are pictorially splendid but don’t actually say much about the characters in them.

So it should be no surprise that Coppola offers few insights into the motivations of the teenaged gang in The Bling Ring. Is Marc in love with Rebecca? Is he gay? Why does Nicki join the gang despite the obvious consequences that will occur if she’s busted and has to rely on her overly protective mother for support?

Like journalist Nancy Jo Sales, Coppola seems to prefer to take no position lest she appear un-hip. “Draw your own conclusion,” is the apparent take-away from this film.

The skinny

The Bling Ring is very stylish but it’s as empty as the teenagers they’re depicting. Coppola takes you on an entertaining ride but offers very little of substance about celebrity culture.

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