In her underrated 2010 film Somewhere, writer-director Sofia Coppola used the quiet, surreal life of a movie star (played by Stephen Dorff) to illustrate the emptiness of fame and celebrity. In her new film The Bling Ring, Coppola tackles the same subject from a different perspective, using the fact-based story of a group of teenagers who broke into the homes of famous people, raiding their closets and stealing more than $3 million in jewelry. Then they would post photos of themselves on Facebook showing off their designer sunglasses and brand-name purses and blow money at night clubs and basically act like celebrities, even though they were nothing more than lucky thieves.
Eventually, they were arrested. But none of the members of the Gucci posse (played by Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga, among others) are particularly interesting or funny or captivating. They are as interchangeable as the girls from Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, except these teens were rich and privileged and spoiled. They use the Internet to find out where their targets live and when they’re going to be out of town, then they head over and sneak in (apparently, no one in Los Angeles has an alarm system in their home, no matter how rich they are). The girls ogle Paris Hilton’s wardrobe and steal Orlando Bloom’s collection of Rolexes and try on Dolce & Gabbana and Prada and Chanel. When one of them steals a gun, you pray it leads to some sort of plot development, but no. There’s just more clothes and giggling and dancing and trying on shoes.
Why did Coppola make this movie? As a filmmaker, she’s always been intrigued by the demands of fame (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), and her distinctively feminine gaze brings a subtle but noticeable difference to her movies. But she’s never come off so obvious or banal. Maybe Coppola thought the girls’ insouciance — there was also a boy in the group, who is implied to be gay — or their chutzpah would be enough to sustain the humor in the film. The Bling Ring was the last movie shot by the late, great cinematographer Harris Savides (the picture is dedicated to him), and he finds a million different ways to make shiny, expensive things look beautiful. Coppola just doesn’t come up with a reason for you to care.
Cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann.
Director: Sofia Coppola.
Screenwriters: Sofia Coppola, Nancy Jo Sales. Based on the Vanity Fair article ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins.’
Producers: Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Youree Henley.
An A24 release. Running time: 90 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, drug use, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.