We all, if being honest, envy to some degree the lifestyles of Hollywood’s rich and famous. For most however, lusting after their wealth ends with reading celebrity magazines or watching the latest TV documentary. Not so for the Californian kids whose true story forms the basis for Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (2013), which stars Israel Broussard, Katie Chang and Emma Watson. Marc (Broussard) is the new boy in town, and as such feels an outsider at his new school. At least until he is befriended by Rebecca (Katie Chang) who has discovered a way to get close to her Hollywood idols and share their lifestyle.
However as their lucrative new sideline is anything but legal, it’s not long before the police come knocking at Rebecca’s door – and you can be sure she’s not going down alone. If you were expecting a tense and gritty drama of bored, dysfunctional LA kids, who get their kicks vicariously by stealing and then wearing the clothes and jewellery of their film and TV idols, you will likely be disappointed with Coppola’s lifeless, pseudo documentary. For the majority of the film the kids, all of whom seem as shallow as the people they stole from, spend their time darting from one Hollywood Hills mansion to another, in-between getting off their heads at various local nightclubs on drugs and alcohol paid for with the proceeds of their late night burglaries.
The Bling Ring fails to make you sympathise, either with the members of the gang or their victims. None of the kids are exactly poor by modern standards – Marc may be something of a social misfit, but his father works with a major film distributor and he, along with his female pals, all live in comfortable homes with seemingly well meaning if distant parents. As for the stars they stole from – when Paris Hilton actually leaves her from door key beneath the front mat when she’s out of town, you’re almost tempted to say she deserves to be robbed.
The viewer is also bombarded with luxury on an obscene scale – like when the action takes Rebecca and her cohorts from one designer laden closet to another – you can’t help but feel that these people are unlikely to miss one pair of Louboutins from amongst the hundred and fifty other pairs. The film’s premise originated from an article in the glossy gossip magazine Vanity Fair, which exposed the escapades and later the trials of The Bling Ring’s team. Which may explain why, like that said bible to fame and Hollywood scandal, Coppola’s latest has precious little of substance beneath its glitzy, garish surface.