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The Bling Ring Movie Review

The Bling Ring (2013) movie poster The Bling Ring

Theatrical Release: June 14, 2013 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Sofia Coppola / Writers: Sofia Coppola (screenplay); Nancy Jo Sales (Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins")

Cast: Israel Broussard (Marc), Katie Chang (Rebecca), Taissa Farmiga (Sam), Claire Julien (Chloe), Georgia Rock (Emily), Emma Watson (Nicki), Leslie Mann (Laurie), Gavin Rossdale (Ricky), Carlos Miranda (Rob), Annie Fitzgerald (Kate from Vanity Fair), Marc Coppola (Mr. Hall - Marc's Dad), Paris Hilton (Herself), Kirsten Dunst (Herself)

The Bling Ring will come to home video on September 17th. Preorder from Amazon.com:
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Growing up in a family of Hollywood royalty has clearly shaped Sofia Coppola's storytelling interests.
Having written about the loneliness of promotional travel abroad in Lost in Translation and the boredom of movie stardom in Somewhere, the Academy Award-winning writer-director now turns to another more specific pitfall of celebrity in The Bling Ring, a dramatization of a bizarre string of house burglaries occurring from 2008 to 2009.

The crimes were notable because the victims were all famous young people, most of them also socialites and fashion icons, and because the burglars were for the most part teenagers who admired the targeted celebrities.

Coppola gives us the teenagers' point of view. She resists demonizing these kids, portraying them as shallow, status-driven thrill-seekers who make industrious use of news they get primarily from ubiquitous gossip websites.

In "The Bling Ring", Marc (Isabel Broussard), Chloe (Claire Julien), and Rebecca (Katie Chang) decide to burglarize the homes of celebrities.

Names have been changed but the individuals are closely based on the real Calabasas, California ones Nancy Jo Sales described in a 2010 Vanity Fair article (the article that prompted this delightful slice of reality television). Leading the operation are Marc (Israel Broussard), a new-in-town gay kid who is eased into robbery with break-ins of random unlocked parked cars by Rebecca (Katie Chang), the one classmate he befriends. Rebecca and Marc graduate to breaking in to houses of a family known to be out of town and from there, closely-watched paparazzi magnets are the next logical stage. When Paris Hilton, who herself appears frequenting the same trendy clubs as these teens with connections, is reported to be away for some public appearance, Marc gets the address of her Beverly Hills mansion, which he and Rebecca then enter using the key the hotel heiress has none too wisely hidden under her doormat. They take a few items they rightfully suspect the loaded Hilton won't notice or miss: purses, dresses, sunglasses, and the like.

It kind of seems like the perfect crime, one easy to pull off due to lax, careless security and to get away with due to the target's boundless material wealth. These high schoolers have as much sympathy for Paris Hilton as the media that builds and sustains a readership out of ridiculing her. A twentysomething famous for being famous with no obvious talent and more money than the average hard-working person will earn in a lifetime is someone you can seemingly rob with a clear conscience.

These two teens do and they are soon joined by their friends, including home-schooled bimbo Nicki (Emma Watson), her adopted sister (Taissa Farmiga, the youngest sister of actress Vera), and a wild, midriff-baring blonde (Claire Julien). Being raised by a single mother (Leslie Mann) who turns a blind eye to their schoolnightly clubbing, serves them antidepressants for breakfast, and centers her curriculum on The Secret, the teens are products of a bad environment. Still, their non-existent morals are tough to swallow, as they document their underage transgressions with smug Facebook selfies.

Nicki (Emma Watson) attracts paparazzi attention outside the courtroom. Leslie Mann plays Laurie, a mother whose home schooling curriculum includes Angelina Jolie collages and "The Secret."

I suspect that there is some disconnect between the dialogue Coppola gives these unlovable characters and the lingo used by the real SoCal bling ring. Coppola just turned 42 last month and surely must have some wild Young Hollywood stories of her own, but she possesses some clear disdain for these vain thieves and the generation they represent. At times, most often when the perpetrators' nonlinear answers to investigators' questions are played for comedic effect, the film has the feel of a square parent in a 1950s youth rebel film.

Coppola can't help but passing judgment on this loathsome lot and seeming a little out-of-touch and old in the process. But what is the alternative: glamorizing them as modern-day Robin Hoods? As is, enough of The Bling Ring feels like a tutorial on how robbing celebrities is the key to an exciting adolescence full of glamorous accessories, interesting stories, and frequent cocaine-fueled parties.

Obviously, Coppola doesn't intend her film to celebrate its antiheroes, although short jail sentences, an E! reality television series and now cinematic immortality seem to form the absolute best-case scenario for such fame-obsessed young felons. The writer-director uses her considerable talent to heighten certain sequences. For instance, a critical break-in of Audrina Patridge's house is arrestingly staged from a distant shot maintained for a minute, as Marc and Rebecca scatter around the house, their misdeeds plain to see through the mansion's glass walls. Raids of Hilton's endless wardrobes, shot in Hilton's actual home, may remind you of the exuberant opulence Coppola captured in Marie Antoinette.

The Bling Ring is engaging and at times amusing. It is crafted with skill and care. But it ultimately feels a little hollow and unfulfilling. Perhaps that accurately conveys the end result to a trial that saw some of the burglars out of jail within a month and some never even charged. It seems like a story worth telling and one that Coppola tells well, but a film that can't make up its mind on whether it's a cautionary true crime drama meant to prompt head-shaking (like a 2011 Lifetime original movie of the same name and subject) or a tongue-in-cheek Sugar & Spice-type comedy meant to tickle your funny bone regarding the follies of youth. The indecision keeps you from feeling like Coppola is living up to her enormous potential or even truly growing as a filmmaker.

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Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: The Great Gatsby Monsters University World War Z The Internship Man of Steel
Written by Sofia Coppola: New York Stories | Israel Broussard: Flipped
Emma Watson: My Week with Marilyn Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Leslie Mann: 17 Again Funny People Knocked Up Drillbit Taylor I Love You Phillip Morris
The Runaways Youth in Revolt Step Up She's Out of My League 10 Years

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Reviewed June 21, 2013.

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