Between Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring it seems that the youth of today are truly in revolt. Gone are the warm fuzzy days of John Hughes’ lovable teenagers running a mock in high school to be replaced by gun totting, drug taking, celebrity worshipping teens desperate for a bit of ultra violence and fame.
Based on the true story, chronicled in Vanity Fair, The Bling Ring finds a group of youths using various internet sources to find the location of their favourite celebrities, wait for them to be out of town and then rob them. Led by Lindsay Lohan worshipping Rebecca (Katie Chang) and her best friend Marc (Israel Broussard), the gang soon recruits fame hungry Nicki (Emma Watson), her BFF Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and spoilt little princess Chloe (Claire Julien) to break into houses belonging to the likes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and, of course, Lohan before finally being caught and finding levels of delusion and notoriety they never dreamed of.
Equal parts fascinating and vacuous, as is very much the intention, The Bling Ring, like its title suggests, is a sparkly piece of filmmaking designed to dazzle while making a statement – but little else. This is a film about the Twitter and Facebook generation in which unless it’s posted online, seen in photos and generally acknowledged by others it simply didn’t exist. There’s no small amount of irony lost that the very thing that allowed the gang to commit these crimes was also a key part of their downfall.
Coppola, no stranger to dealing with troubled teens in particular with her debut film The Virgins Suicides, dispels with her usual dream-like aesthetic to be replaced with something more L.A. grime, a sun-stroked, neon lit haze of debauchery and over-indulgence. She offers little sympathy to either the victims of the crime or the criminals themselves. The Bling Ring depicts them as both part of the problem; that fame is a drug, you either push it or you crave it.
None of the gang of perps need the stolen goods, the diamonds, clothes or money they loot from famous addresses. They just want it to dress as their idols do. But at the same time these multi-millionaire victims seem to have little care for security, a group of teenagers using nothing more than basic logic are able to enter their homes and take huge amounts of belongings without said victims even noticing for the most part. It seems we should not just be weeping for the future but perhaps investing in a good security system, and if you live in the 90210 area maybe locking your doors once in a while.
The Bling Rings’ only real flaw is in failing to get beneath the skin of these characters, instead seemingly content to reenact the events rather than tell a more narrative focused story. These teenagers are portrayed as nothing more than kleptomaniacs with only Broussard being given space to instill any form of moral compass. The performances are still impressive though, Chang managing to bring an almost dead-behind-the-eyes immunity to Rebecca’s misguided ways while Emma Watson, thoroughly ejected from her Harry Potter book-smarts, is so wonderfully shallow her Nicki could enter a Miss America pageant and blow the competition out of the water based on her fortune cookie slogans alone.
Between Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevigne The Bling Ring feels distinctly part of the zeitgeist. But like the commodity that is fame it is a film that makes a splash but probably won’t last beyond the ‘next big thing’. The DVD/Blu-ray release includes a guided tour of ‘The Scene of The Crime’ with Paris Hilton. The billionaire heiress positively reveling in the fact that not only was she robbed, thus boosting her status by proxy, but that the film production should then want to use her house as a key location. It’s so self-indulgent it will make your mind boggle and wallet weep.
Worryingly relevant yet with about as much depth as a kid’s paddling pool, The Bling Ring is a scathing look at young people’s obsession with celebrity.