Film review: The Bling Ring (15)

SOFIA Coppola’s stories always have a dreamlike quality, but The Bling Ring is close to soporific. Want to watch some rather dull characters oohing over clothes? This is your jam.

The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring (15)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Running time: 95 minutes

Star rating: * *

Want to know why middle-class kids commit larceny for Louboutins? This film isn’t so interested. The answer is probably rooted in greed and envy, but, you know: whatever.

This is a fictionalised version of events in 2008 when Californian teens who Googled the home addresses of young Hollywood actors, effortlessly broke into the unsecured homes of Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan, and lifted cash and desirable items like designer shoes, clothes, and jewellery. Their crime spree lasted a year until the gang’s careless public bragging finally reached the ears of the cops, whereupon one of them tried to parlay her arrest into a bid for stardom in her own right, calling the experience “a huge learning lesson” and telling reporters that: “I think it is my journey to push for peace and the health of the planet.”

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The gang comprises four girls and a guy with a penchant for cross-dressing. The ringleader is a bored student called Rebecca (Katie Chang) and most of the cast are unknowns, except for Emma Watson as one of Rebecca’s acolytes, and Leslie Mann as her mother. Watson isn’t bad, since you ask, but apart from a convincing LA attitude, there’s still a question mark over whether she’s the next Kate Winslet.

Each character gets a small character detail. Israel Broussard is a chunky nerd with a passion for female fashion, Rebecca’s parents are divorced, Watson and her screen sister are home-schooled by their wacky mother with lessons based on the self-help book The Secret. The Beautiful People targets usually pop up on archive or computer screens, although Hilton does appear in the movie as herself – and so does her house, where her face is everywhere, including the cushions. Most of the pleasures of The Bling Ring lie in such small observant touches.

If you’ve sat through Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette or Somewhere, you’ll know that Coppola is fascinated by the way the rich live, yet reluctant to make judgment calls. I think we’ve reached a tipping point on this now: her allusiveness has become frustrating, and its weightlessness is now damaging.

There are big unanswered questions in The Bling Ring – did the kids in this fellowship think they would ever get caught, for instance? And how do celebrities like Hilton and Bloom feel about the thefts? Coppola’s combination of arresting imagery and soft-focus storytelling witnesses acquisitiveness, privilege and celebrity obsession, but never reaches a punchline. In the absence of critique, there’s a lingering sense of complicity between Coppola and her Bling bunch. It’s certainly curious that while the kids can recognise a Birkin bag by Hermes from ten feet, none of these label-savvy teens namechecks one particularly covetable luxury item; a spendy brand-leader bag made by Louis Vuitton and named Sofia, after its inspiration, Sofia Coppola.

Twitter @SiobhanSynnot

9 Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Friday until 1 August; Glasgow Film Theatre, Friday until 18 July; Dundee Contemporary Arts, 19-25 July.