I was amused a bit by the absurdity shown in Sophia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring”, which is based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins”. Considering that how superficial and empty-headed its characters are, their immorality is not very shocking to me, but it is rather unbelievable that they had almost no problem in breaking into the residences of the rich and famous. Yes, there were surely the security measures in the houses, but these kids virtually went into the houses and then walked out with stolen goodies while not getting arrested for several months.
Were they a bunch of poor, desperate kids who needed money? Not at all, because they all live in a very comfortable and affluent suburban neighbourhood in Los Angeles County. They know a lot more than me about those expensive fashion brands or those infamous celebrities decorating daily gossip news, and, as a guy always bored by the clothes and accessory sections at department stores, I would be asleep within a minute if I had a chance to talk with them in private(what the heck, I didn’t even know what Louboutins is before watching the movie).
Through its clinical approach, the movie shows us how these kids form a group together and then come to commit their crime spree. They know that the people in their neighborhood are not particularly keen on security, and they just grab the chances as following their impulsive desire and need. During one moment, two characters quickly steal the money and other things from the parked cars at one night because nearly all of them are left with their doors unlocked and, above all, nobody is watching them.
They are Rebecca(Katie Chang) and Marc(Israel Broussard). They met each other on Marc’s first day as a transferred student at Rebecca’s high school, and they soon hang around with other high school girls including Nicki(Emma Watson), Chloe(Claire Julien), and Sam(Taissa Farmiga). Marc does not seem to be interested in having sex with any of these pretty girls although he enjoys spending time with them, and you may wonder whether he is gay as watching him playfully wearing high heeled shoes in front of the girls or collecting a bunch of fancy accessories under his bed. Maybe he is just a shy, awkward kid glad to have the friends to be with him, but the movie never answers to that question although it implies he has some feeling toward Rebecca.
When Marc mentions that a house where one of his friends lives is currently empty due to the family trip, Rebecca, the smartest one among the bunch, suggests breaking into that house. After the front door is easily opened, Rebecca and Marc look around the interior of the house for a while and then they steal several things including cash, a credit card, and a sports car parked in front of the house.
Once they see how easy it is to break into the houses in their neighbourhood, they go more boldly with their friends, and the houses of the celebrities they envy become their natural targets. The first target is Parris Hilton’s residence, and they break into that place more than once as they break into the houses of other celebrities including Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom(While briefly appearing as herself during a nightclub scene in the movie, Hilton also let Coppola and the crew shoot the movie in the very house burglarized in real life). All they have to do is checking whether their target celebrity is out of the town through Internet gossip news, and the rest is literally a piece of cake as shown in one quiet long-take shot depicting the entire process of their crime from the distance.
They have a big fun with the things obtained through their, uh, ‘shopping’. Wherever they break into, there are always expensive clothes, shoes, bags, perfumes, wristwatches, and other expensive accessories to dazzle them, and they eagerly snatch some of them along with money just because they want to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle of the celebrities they have looked at with envy. With the money earned through selling their stolen goods, they enjoy themselves every night at their favorite nightclub, and, not so surprisingly, alcohol and drug come handy to them.
The movie distantly looks at these superficial kids with no sympathy, and that is a right choice considering how incorrigible they are even in the end. As expected, this is not much of a spoiler, the police has been pursuing them as they keep committing their crimes with no thought on the consequence of their actions, and, once they are labeled as prime suspects, the evidences are quickly discovered when their houses and, of course, their Facebook pages are searched(you have probably heard about those idiotic criminals getting arrested after bragging about their crimes on the social network).
Despite the incredulity followed by amusement during my viewing, the movie still feels hollow as a superficial story about superficial characters. The actors give good performances, but their banal characters do not leave much impression although you may be amused by their sheer superficiality during the first half. I especially enjoyed an outrageous homeschooling scene featuring Leslie Man as Nicki’s equally shallow mom, and it is hilarious to watch her character cheerfully trying to teach to her daughters about the fashionable empty life lessons from those useless self-help books, but the movie only scratches the surface because there is not much it can dig up from it except laughing about it.
Sofia Coppola’s previous films may be shallow as her detractors have said, but she has successfully captured the melancholy and frustration inside the shallow sense of existence in her movies. Her great film “Lost in Translation”(2003) was a prime example, and her underrated films like “Marie Antoinette”(2006) and “Somewhere”(2010) had interesting character moments amid their luxurious empty worlds. In case of “The Bling Ring”, it merely feels empty and not much more than that, and it ultimately becomes a shallow misfire with little reward for us. After all, these pathetic kids in the movie are pretty uninteresting from the beginning, aren’t they?