The Kids Are Totes Not All Right

The Bling Ring
(USA, 88 min.)
Written and dir’d by Sofia Coppola
Starring: Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, and Leslie Mann.
Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Katie Chang
and Claire Julien in The Bling Ring, an eOne Films release
The Bling Ring is the film Spring Breakers wanted to be, but wasn’t. Smart, stylish, and satirical, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring captures the excess and aimlessness of the current generation. The satire is so spot-on in The Bling Ring that it’s almost impossible to notice. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Coppola’s wily spin on this unbelievable-but-true tale of teenage house bandits works because The Bling Ring is in on the joke just as much as it pokes fun at the subjects of its satire. Half the fun of The Bling Ring is Coppola’s seamless self-referentiality in her take on the perceived glitz and glamour of celebrity excess. For example, Coppola sets several of The Bling Ring’s heists in the real home of one of its real victims, Paris Hilton. Hilton is a great sport about the fab Bling Ring: she enjoys a cameo at a trendy LA nightclub and offers up her house for Coppola to dramatize the Blingers’ joyride.

Hilton’s swanky and chic home is the epitome of gaudy self-indulgence. It’s no wonder that Rebecca (Katie Chang) and Marc (Israel Broussard) chose Hilton’s pad as their first target for thrill-seeking, as Hilton’s home is a glittering shrine to herself. Magazine covers and glamour shots adorn her walls in frames fit for a sultan. Hilton has a nightclub room, and a closet with more square footage than a film blogger might ever have for a home in the foreseeable future. Besties in Hilton’s interior decorating are some fancy throw pillows with her image as a cover. How many people can afford to sit on their face?

The sheer novelty of seeing Hilton’s home, which is burgled by The Bling Ring many times since Paris never locks her doors, highlights the shrewdness of The Bling Ring’s satire. Viewers will surely debate with their moviegoing companions whether Paris’s home is the real deal or a feat of funny art direction. Dramatizing a break-in in Paris Hilton’s real house is like watching Tina Fey roast Sarah Palin without having to change a word of the Alaskan politico’s word vomit. Today’s society is so consumed with glamour, celebrity, and idolatry that Coppola doesn’t even need to dress it up to make a point.

The crew of The Bling Ring, led primarily by Rebecca and, eventually, Nicki (Emma Watson), steal from most of the real victims of the Hollywood hills burglaries. In between trips to Paris, The Bling Ring takes clothes from Audrina Partridge, Rolexes and shoes from Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr, money from Lindsay Lohan, and even a gun from Meghan Fox. The people from whom the teens are stealing aren’t ideal idols. The Bling Ring, using D-Listed and Google Maps as their reconnaissance tools, target the kinds of celebrities one expects these deluded kids to look up to: they’re mostly hot sexy flavours of the month who are famous for being famous.

Coppola finds depth in shallow behaviour. The Bling Ring is empathetic to the disillusioned young robbers of the Hollywood hills, yet Coppola realizes a kind of analytical humour in their situation. What could possibly possess a crew of well to do rich kids to commit such a string a thefts?

The members of The Bling Ring, spoiled brats they are, have everything a teen could want as they film begins: hip threads, bottle service, and all the latest handheld necessities. Nicki and her friend/adoptive sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga) are homeschooled by Nicki’s hip, yuppie mom (a fun Leslie Mann), who means well, but could also be part of the problem as she starts the day by summoning the kids for Adderall and not for breakfast. Marc and Rebecca, on the other hand, show less signs of a stable life since they meet up in remedial school, but they too enjoy more freedom than most kids their kids have. The members of The Bling Ring just seem to have such a short attention span to the tools for self-indulgence at their disposal that they have to crank things to an extreme just to keep the party going.

Although the members of The Bling Ring are in a unique demographic, they’re emblematic of a young generation that knows life through social media and selfies. The young cast is pitch-perfect with Watson being particularly good in her dead-pan hilarious performance as the reigning airhead of The Bling Ring who might, like, run a country someday. (And the scary thing is, she probably will.) Coppola, scripting The Bling Ring in abbrev’d dialogue and Tweet friendly idioms, creates a portrait of contemporary youth that’s hilariously on the mark, yet frank and ambiguously judgemental.

The members of The Bling Ring shine as they put their drinks up in a seemingly endless montage of selfies. The Bling Ring isn’t confined so much to a story time as it is to the attention span of a teen perusing social media. The Bling Ring is great as both a satire and a moral fable because Coppola’s stylistic approach treads the line between auteurism and MTV commercialism. The Bling Ring, Coppola’s prettiest film to date looks like hot lip-gloss filtered through designer shades.

As the splendid cinematography captures the follies of these wayward teens, Coppola bounces the robberies to a lively soundtrack and gives The Bling Ring a youthful, carefree edge. There’s a great opportunity for crossover appeal to be had with The Bling Ring, and fans of Coppola’s previous works need only witness the director’s centrepiece of the film that sees the Blingers rob a glass mansion in one striking long take from afar. (The Bling Ring marks the final film of DP Harris Savides, to whom the film is dedicated.) Coppola really has something to say with this tale of lost kids, but she smartly leaves it up to the audience to point the finger. Regardless of who is to blame for the shenanigans, however, The Bling Ring suggests that the kids are totes not all right.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

The Bling Ring is currently playing across Canada.
It screens in Ottawa at Silver City Gloucester and Empire Kanata.