From the opening guitar riff of Sleigh Bells’ “Crown on the Ground” The Bling Ring announces exactly what kind of movie it is going to deliver: loud music (that will no doubt comment on the action), characters walking in slow motion to accentuate their “cool”, and a whole lot of glamour. In a lot of movies, this is trite and unnecessary, but in The Bling Ring it fits perfectly. Here are a group of kids who probably think that their life is worthy of a movie, as long as they are the stars. If they were to walk past a mirror, they would be incapable of not checking themselves out in it. They are byproduct of a celebrity culture gone haywire. Anyone can be famous or they at least can be close to someone who is famous. Twitter connects strangers directly into their hero’s thoughts and Instagram takes those beautiful people down from the larger than life screens and places them in tiny little pictures in our phones. Their pictures there, right next to your photo from last nights dinner and that bottle of wine with the label you couldn’t pronounce. They are practically our friends, and we are practically celebrities, all we need is for TMZ to show up and take our picture. That is validation enough.
Sofia Coppola (with her title card over a bedazzled necklace reading “Rich Bitch”) writes and directs a script based on a Vanity Fair article, “The Suspect Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales. Sales interviewed the six members of The Bling Ring, or Hollywood Hills Burglars, who burglarized over 50 homes between October 2008 and August 2009. The intruders selected their targets based on when a particular celebrity left town, Googled the home address, and then casually walked through the front door. In the case of Paris Hilton, she left her key under the mat. Most of the other victims left a sliding patio door unlocked or a doggy door unblocked. All of them had security systems, but apparently none of them worked. I suppose that the celebrities depicted are just as careless with their possessions as the culprits were with their privacy and secrecy. The Ring stole and did very little to cover any of it up, often telling random strangers at parties and posting pictures of themselves on Facebook with the stolen merchandise. This is a movie populated with characters that just don’t seem to care about consequences.
The ring is led by the duo of Rebecca (Katie Chang) and Marc (Israel Broussard). They go to an alternative high school after being kicked out of much nicer institutions. They come from well-to-do, affluent families, giving them well-to-do, affluent entitlement. Rebecca is the one who decides on a lark to break into Paris Hilton’s house and Marc follows. One trip is not enough and they expand their crew: Nicki (Emma Watson), Chloe (Claire Julien), and Sam (Taissa Farmiga). In addition to stealing from the rich and famous, they also drink to excess, smoke pot, snort coke, and freebase. The never seem to get drunk or stoned. No one gets too high and flips out. They have fun while they rob, but never that euphoric feeling that makes one want to try that. They all have the same disaffected, dead look in their eyes. Nothing is real, nothing does anything for them. Considering that they are all teenagers, it is surprising that none of them get any sense of sexual charge from all the theft and debauchery. They don’t even express any overt sexual desires. Maybe that is the one thing that was actually lacking. I wonder if a little masturbation wouldn’t have curbed all of their appetites.
Of course the reason that they do it is because they themselves want to be famous. The most telling exchange of dialog occurs between Rebecca and one of the investigators: “Have you spoken to any of the victims?” “I’ve spoken to all of the victims.” “Really? What did Lindsey say?” They never robbed from celebrities, because they wanted to be near celebrities, they robbed from them because they wanted to be celebrities. They get their wish, and Nicki pulls a fast one on us when she turns to the camera and tells us that if we want to know more about her story, just visit her website. We thought we were watching a movie, and it was reality TV this whole time. Clever girl.