Katie Chang as Rebecca
Israel Broussard as Marc
Emma Watson as Nicki
Claire Julien as Chloe
Taissa Farmiga as Sam
Leslie Mann as Laurie
Gavin Rossdale as Ricky
Georgia Rock as Emily
Carlos Miranda as Rob
Stacy Edwards as Marc’s Mom
G. Mac Brown as Henry
Marc Coppola as Mr. Hall – Marc’s Dad
Janet Song as Rebecca’s Mom
Annie Fitzgerald as Kate from Vanity Fair
Directed by Sofia Coppola
High school friends Rebecca and Marc (Katie Chang and Israel Broussard) bond over fashion and celebrities and when they realize that they can break into celebrity homes like that of Paris Hilton and easily steal their belongings, it becomes a nightly obsession. Soon, they’re joined by their friends Nicki, Sam and Chloe (Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julian), who are all equally impressed by celebrities and their ability to rob them of their belongings. Ultimately, the “Bling Ring” would get arrested and jailed for the break-ins and robbery of nearly $3 million in celebrity possessions.
While at first “The Bling Ring” may not feel like a movie that would be up Sofia Coppola’s alley, once you realize her debut “The Virgin Suicides” was all about young people in high school and that this is territory she hasn’t explored since then, it’s an interesting prospect for sure. Even 14 years later, Coppola still has a really good handle on how young people talk and act and that’s key for making this true crime story work even though the idea of teenagers breaking into celebrity houses and stealing millions in jewelry and clothes and getting away with it might not be so hard to believe at first.
The story takes place in Hollywood, California, the center for shallow pretty people in a country that’s become obsessed with celebrity thanks to the likes of TMZ.com and tabloid blogging. Rebecca and Marc become fast friends on his first day at high school, bonding over their mutual love for style and fashion. When Rebecca realizes how easy it is to break into the mansions of celebrities like Paris Hilton, the duo start making nightly treks to these places to grab whatever they can find.
Newcomer Katie Chang gives a revelatory role as Rebecca, the ringleader of the group whose obsession with celebrity, particularly Lindsay Lohan, starts her down the path to breaking into celebrity homes and stealing their clothes. Her performance is as memorable as Kirsten Dunst’s was back in “Virgin Suicides” because she has quite a presence on screen, and Israel Brousssard is equally terrific as her covertly gay best friend who’s just happy to have someone at his new school who wants to spend time with them. The duo are the heart and soul of the movie to the point where the rest of the girls joining the story just don’t do much for it.
This is especially the case with Emma Watson and this isn’t a great role for her considering how good she was in last year’s “Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Her character is the shallowest of the bunch and her California accent is constantly going in and out. The other two actresses aren’t much better and it’s a shame when the focus shifts away from Chang’s strong on-screen presence to the larger group.
Leslie Mann plays Nikki’s mother, a spiritually-minded woman who decides to home school her girls and their friend Sam, but like most of the parents in California, they’re entirely clueless to what their teenagers are getting up to at any given time. As one might imagine, her scenes are some of the funniest (and eeriest) in the movie because it’s hard to believe these types of parents really exist.
The second act drags a bit as we get into the repetitive nature of the group scouting and breaking into various celebrity homes and stealing what they can find, Rebecca eventually getting into the home of her “White Whale” Lohan, which ultimately proves her undoing. But once we get into the third act arrests and watch Nikki and others interviewed for the Vanity Fair article that inspired the film, there are some interesting lessons to be learned about getting too focused on what celebrities are doing and wearing to the point where this film goes.
It’s also somewhat strange this movie is coming out so soon after Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers,” another look at young women wild and out of control, although that movie had the added genius of James Franco as gangster rapper Alien and there’s nothing quite that memorable in “The Bling Ring.”
As she’s proven with her previous movies, Coppola has a strong handle on how to incorporate modern music into her films, once again working with Brian Reizell, as she kicks things off with über-hip Sleigh Bells and incorporates lots of current rap music that the kids would generally be listening to.
The Bottom Line:
Surprisingly entertaining, “The Bling Ring” is a step back on the right path for Sofia Coppola, a chance for her to work with young people again in a different environment based on a true story. Whether or not you agree with the characters’ motivations, it’s far too easy to understand how the world we currently live in can lead to something like this happening.
The Bling Ring is now playing in New York and Los Angeles but it opens nationwide on Friday, June 21.