out of Five
Running time: 91
Director Sofia Coppola takes a well-aimed potshot at today's shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture with this engaging, superbly acted and impeccably production-designed drama, though the story is a little too fixated on the moral blankness of its characters and it completely lacks emotional depth.
What's it all about?
Directed by Sofia Coppola, The Bling Ring is based on the true events as detailed in a Vanity Fair article (‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins’) and stars Israel Broussard as Marc, an insecure L.A. teenager who's ignored at his new school until he befriends celebrity-obsessed Rebecca (Katie Chang), the pair bonding over a mutual love of fashion. When Rebecca realises that a rich classmate of Marc's is going away for the weekend with his family, she gets him to find out the address and the pair burgle the house, stealing money and designer goods.
Flushed with their success, Rebecca and Marc begin to target the homes of celebrities (including Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Orlando Bloom and Megan Fox), getting their addresses from the internet and using gossip sites like TMZ to let them know when their potential victims are out of town. At the same time, Rebecca and Marc's flaunting of their ill-gotten gains captures the attention of three of Rebecca's friends – Chloe (Claire Julien), Nicky (Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) – and soon they are insisting they come along on the next job.
The performances are excellent, particularly Katie Chang, who gives Rebecca just a hint of potentially dangerous instability, while Broussard is superb as the nervous teenager intoxicated by his new best friend. Similarly, Emma Watson is terrific as fame-obsessed Nicki (bookends of the film show her being interviewed by the press and loving it, her ridiculous statements – ‘I want to lead a country one day...’ - apparently taken verbatim from the real-life case) and there's amusing support from Leslie Mann as Nicki and Sam's home-schooling mother Laurie.
Coppola's script perfectly skewers today's celebrity-obsessed culture; gossip and fashion is literally all these characters talk about and there's a brilliant scene where Rebecca, draped in Lindsay Lohan's jewellery and spraying herself with Lilo perfume, has a sort of transportive personal ecstasy moment as she stares at herself in the mirror. Needless to say, Coppola ensures that the production design work is impeccable – Paris Hilton's house even cameos as itself (as does Hilton, briefly).
The main problem with the film is that there's no real sense of either character development or, indeed, story beyond the basic facts of the synopsis; that may be part of the point Coppola is making, but it's ultimately a little frustrating. Similarly, the film's closing courtroom scenes are set up for intriguing conflict, but they are pretty much brushed over, so the ending feels a little flat as a result.
The Bling Ring is an engaging and stylishly directed drama with a sharply observed script and a stand-out performance from Emma Watson. It would also make a great zeitgeist-skewering double-bill with Spring Breakers. Recommended.