Sofia Coppola is back in form for “The Bling Ring”. Even though it’s decidedly slight, I very much enjoyed its style. Why do I say, “back in form” though? Well, I very much liked Sofia’s first two features as a director, although I’ve often said that I believe “The Virgin Suicides” is underrated and “Lost in Translation” is overrated. “Marie Antoinette” may have been ambitious to a fault, but was still a solid entry in the Coppola canon. Then there’s the issue of “Somewhere”. So many critics I respect adored “Somewhere”. It’s very difficult for me to pan it, and I’ve watched it multiple times. But dammit, I just don’t like “Somewhere”! I found it to be annoyingly autobiographical and shockingly simplistic. Stephen Dorff’s movie star character finds his life empty? What a revelation. Elle Fanning as his daughter feels neglected while she’s being catered to by every single person in the film? Holy cow—could I tell Sofia some stories. I admit that I probably carry too much personal baggage from my own childhood to truly enjoy “Somewhere”. Plus, I admired the performances and Harry Savides cinematography. But “Somewhere” left me cold. Wait, what am I reviewing? Oh, yeah—“The Bling Ring”. That left me exhilarated. It’s “Natural Born Killers” sans violence.
Kate Chang is Rebecca. Israel Broussard is Marc. Emma Watson is Nicki. Claire Julien is Chloe. And Taissa Farmiga is Sam. They are a bunch of privileged teenage kids, living in a Los Angeles suburb, and admiring celebrity life and reality television. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Megan Fox—these kids want a taste of their lives(as do many, I imagine, across the nation—unfortunately). They are wayward youths, and they’ve all ended up at a sub par high school based on a variety of juvenile offenses. And they all want MORE, despite their relatively well-to-do upbringing. So they start robbing celebrity houses—and usually by simply walking in the front door, or finding a key under the welcome mat. Paris Hilton is their first target, mainly because she’s the one considered dumb enough to leave her home unsecured. And, of course, they’re right. Jewelry, cash, clothes, shoes—the “gang” walks off with a bundle. They keep some, they sell some, they flaunt it—and they don’t get caught. So they eventually rob another house. Then another. And when internet research confirms that a particular celebrity they admire is out of town, they brazenly do it again and again. When they are finally caught though, some of their reactions may surprise you. But we’re all pretty jaded now by the 21st century, aren’t we? So maybe it won’t be so surprising after all.
“The Bling Ring” is based on a real life group of seven teenagers found guilty of stealing around 3 million dollars worth of cash and belongings from various celebrity homes. And Ms. Coppola weaves their tale beautifully—a solid director, she’s an even better writer(let’s not forget that her Oscar was for Best Original Screenplay for “Lost in Translation”, a decade ago). The characters, relationships and situations are entirely authentic feeling and believable—Sofia even manages a couple of cameos out of Paris Hilton and Kirsten Dunst. Emma Watson impresses me every single time out now—and I’ve yet to see even one “Harry Potter” film in its entirety. Katie Chang and Israel Broussard are also quite good. Sofia understands these people and seems to feel them too. Heck, she probably grew up with folks just like this. The ever autobiographical Ms. C follows that road again. But the circles she travels in are decidedly more enthralling than the ones presented in “Somewhere”. And the audience should be thankful for that fact alone. Oh, and cinematographer Harry Savides did his final work on this film—he passed away at 55 during filming. “The Bling Ring” is dedicated to him onscreen—a classy move. Grade: B+