Before tabbing over to write this review, I saw on Perez Hilton’s Twitter feed that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have not yet named their baby daughter BUT have released the tidbit that the name does not start with the letter K.
This breathless little bit of non-news about a woman whom I have never googled and about whom I have never sought out information – and yet know more about than my own cousin – pretty much sums up the dark side of fame and fortune and American culture in 2013.
Into this context comes a movie based on a true story that shines a mirror back into the face of that very culture. But then, like a funhouse maze, it shines a mirror on that reflection itself and creates so confusing a picture, we’re not really sure what we’re looking at.
The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola, tells the true story of a pack of Los Angeles delinquents who so identified with celebrities that they broke into their houses and helped themselves to their things.
Marc (Israel Broussard) finds a friend in Rebecca (Katie Chang), a girl who gets her thrills out of swiping things from unlocked cars. Vapid Nicki (Emma Watson) and her friend Sam (a girl, Taissa Farminga) live with Nicki’s mother Laurie (Leslie Mann), a homeschooling Los Angeles super-spiritual-but-not-religious type. (If you’ve spent any time in L.A., you’ve met them. If not, they’re really like that.)
Rebecca convinces Marc to break into Paris Hilton’s house when the Internet tells her Paris is hosting a party elsewhere. The Hilton house is the very embodiment of entitlement: ballroom-sized closets stuffed with designer clothes, walls lined with glamor shots of Paris herself, a pet monkey in a cage. The biggest example of entitlement, however? The owner of all these riches cares for them so little, she leaves her keys under the mat outside the door.
Soon, all the kids are doing it. Over the course of the story, the kids break in several times to steal clothing, bags, shoes, jewelry, and alcohol, and yet the keys are still there for the next visit. The borrowers speculate that Hilton has so much stuff she doesn’t notice when some goes missing.
In addition to swiping the trappings of fame and fortune, the kids act like kids: partying in their overdecorated lounges, using ill-gained cash to live it up in a popular nightclub, posing in a victim’s house and posting the picture to Facebook, taking fashion-magazine like spreads of their new gear and posting it all online. They want the world to know. They want to brag.
None of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They all have food and clothes and cars and material goods that would make most of the world blush. But they want more: the lifestyle. They want to look awesome, party hard, and be known for both.
Sofia Coppola keeps her commentary subtle. A yearning Rebecca smiles at herself in Lindsay Lohan’s mirror as she sprays Lindsay Lohan’s perfume on herself. A bored Emma Watson lounges in Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green’s bed, idly flipping through their bedside photos, books, and rummaging through the drawers.
Are the kids doing something wrong? Are the victims so wealthy and amoral themselves that stealing from them is almost a good thing? Like Robin Hood? Whose soul is corrupted or are there any in this cycle of covetousness to be corrupted?
Is it a sin to covet the life of someone who exists purely for the purpose of being coveted?
Coppola apparently wants the viewer to sit in these questions because they are not answered. It makes the movie uncomfortable.
And yet, my mind keeps coming back to the empty cycle of desire and vain fulfillment the movie portrays. It sticks in my mind like few movies do.
Bling Ring is rated R for language, pervasive drug use, alcohol use among minors, and some implied sexuality. Depending on how you take the movie, all these behaviors are portrayed as bad, or at least questioned. The sexuality is not graphic. I would take my teens to see it. In fact, it would be an excellent movie to discuss with teens.