Rebecca speeds through the Hollywood Hills in the driver’s seat of a fancy car with her decided bff, Marc. If you’re a young male like Marc you’ll find her confidence alluring but you’ll hide it because she’s much cooler than you. As for all the young women, they don’t care: they just want to know her. The pair take selfies of their extravagant lifestyle to upload to social media. Marc readies the lens for a posing Rebecca behind the wheel as she approaches the traffic lights. She says, “hurry up,” but it’s in a soothing manner because it’s not the lights she’s worried about, it’s everything else she’s worried she’ll miss.
This is the centre of The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s latest. Gone are the aesthetic musings in hotel rooms of lost lives or forgotten daughters: in their place is a world of teenage bedrooms where anarchy reigns. Parents hold no place in this society. Leslie Mann, playing Nicki’s (Emma Watson) hilariously out-of-sync mother, assembles her kids each morning with a prayer (of sorts) that returns us to the craze of the Oprah-endorsed The Secret. Meanwhile Marc’s (Israel Broussard) father all too readily accepts Nicki’s insistence that nothing funny is “going on,” all while she holds a burning cigarette behind her back inside Marc’s bedroom. It’s not that parents are absent here, Coppola is merely telling the story from the POV of these young adults. Via their gaze, the parents are just warm-bodied, sluggish caricatures of older people.
Rebecca (Katie Chang) decides she and Marc need to instil some excitement into their lives. Her solution? Break into the houses of celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Rachel Bilson. Just as the central characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower scoured their immediate surroundings for signs of humanity and moral decency as a means of human connection, Rebecca and the gang exploit everything and feed off the success of others.
What’s important here is why they’re thieving. The Bling Ring, named by way of media, are about as far from criminal intelligence as possible. Just as Jesse and Walter White fumbled their way through ambushes and botched attempts at stamping authority with the big bosses in Breaking Bad, Rebecca et al target the eventual victims by way of style obsession (the line “I love her style!” is repeated often by every person in the Ring, with regards to multiple people) and if they, conveniently, happen to be away one particular night such as on a film shoot or hosting a nightclub event.
The biggest surprise here was how easy all of this information was obtained. Style blogs and TMZ were the biggest providers of diary information, plus a simple one-click search of interested-celebrities addresses handed them the key. Doors were left unlocked, or under a doormat. From there, the girls (and lone guy) went crazy with their access.
Based on the Vanity Fair article The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales, Coppola’s interpretation of their motivation will leave many craving an additional inquest. What’s prevalent in Sales’ article is how innocent, by way of life experience, these kids are: Alexis Neirs, whom Nicki is based on, is quoted as saying “I’m a firm believer in Karma … I want to lead a country, for all I know” as a means of protesting her innocence in the court case. The line is repeated ad verbatim in the film. Coppola is not interested in an essay about consumerism and the corruption of capitalism. She just wants to show the Bling Ring for who they are: bored, over-entitled teenagers. It’s the nightclub sequences that show this off the most; endless selfies of the group drenched in stolen property for their facebook accounts, dancing under the influence of expensive alcohol bought with stolen money.
This incarnation of Sofia Coppola is a much busier one. Where static, long takes ruled in her previous film Somewhere this shows a much more involved director, moving the camera in time with her subjects. She’s still incredibly unobtrusive, perhaps damagingly so, as once again she refrains from casting any sense of editorial commentary over the actions of these would-be thieves. Instead we’re given a glimpse of what possibly went on over the course of those few months and in some instances, it’s as empty as the motivations behind the break-ins. At least this adaptation has a killer soundtrack.
and a half
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire
Opens nationally in limited release August 1.