USUALLY WHEN A movie boasts that it’s “based on a true story”, you can expect second-rate fodder that’s seeking to endear itself to its viewers by means of this cheap, dubious, ‘true-story’ trick. In the case of “The Bling Ring”, the fact that it really is based on a true story, call it the “actual events”, is its raison d’etre.
It tells the –true- story of a quintet of teenagers who easily profile the whereabouts of a number of fashion-obsessed Hollywood celebs (like Paris Hilton), identify their addresses and, with almost embarrassing ease (Paris keeps her keys under the mat; others don’t even bother to lock doors, probably because there are too many of them to count) slip into their homes and treat themselves to the delights within.
Director Sophia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”, “The Virgin Suicides”, “Marie Antoinette”) gives us a loose story-line that begins when Marc (Israel Boussard), a closet homosexual and (self-confessed) self-loathing young man enters a new school. His anomie is eased when he strikes up a friendship with Rebecca (Katie Chung), a serial petty thief. One thing leads to another and soon, there are five of them that regularly start helping themselves to the jeweled baubles, accessories and clothes of the likes of Orlando Bloom.
Under the cover of dark, the homes they enter – vast, soul-less palaces – are a King Solomon’s Mines of wealth. Paris Hilton’s home (it was filmed in her real home) is an homage to herself, covered as it is with images of herself – on the walls, on the cushions etc. And yet, despite the fact that they returned to this scene of the crime several times, even boasting of it to sundry friends, she, apparently never even knew that she’d been burgled.
Coppola brings an almost anthropological accuracy to her observation of this milieu – of rich, bored, spoilt kids stealing from richer, more bored, more spoilt celebs. Her ear for the flat, semi-articulate diction of this fame obsessed, pampered Angelino tribe, is spot on, and brilliantly captured by Emma Watson as Nicki in this her post-Potter break-out role.
But, beyond that, there’s not much else.
The quasi-documentary structure of the movie generates the verisimilitude that the director no doubt sought after, but it becomes a trap. The movie was based on an article – “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Jo Sales – in Vanity Fair, and too often feels like a video version of the article. The movie never quite reaches a level of narrative drama, which would probably have felt false, and stays at the level of offering us a series of beautifully observed vignettes (In an interview after the event, Vicki soulfully confesses that she sees the whole experience as a stage in her life, destined, maybe, like preparing her to be a leader, like of a country or something. This is the emptiness we get from a Miss World interview, so delightfully satirized by Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality”). But after thirty or so minutes of this, “The Bling Ring” becomes repetitive and flabby.
Far from being a deep, nuanced perspective of a shallow culture, it remains a shallow snapshot of the culture it portrays.
And more’s the pity. For the ideas that could have emerged from this frightening story of the rich stealing from the rich; of a society immersed in its own vacuous, glittering reflection needed a better writer…someone who could have used her inside nous, which Coppola clearly has, to offer greater interpretive depth.