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HomeBlogPopcorn Parent Movie ReviewsFamily Movie Review: The Bling Ring (R)

Family Movie Review: The Bling Ring (R)

To be honest, who could sympathize with these teenagers? If you knew anything about the story of the Bling Ring beforehand (perhaps by reading the Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales, upon which the film is based), you’ll know most of them got off with very little punishment, only having to serve some jail time and give back what they stole. Whether you think that’s enough probably depends on if you sympathize with celebrities (after all, the teens broke into Hilton’s home numerous times until she caught on) or if you think social conditions shaped the teens’ obsession. But for Coppola, it’s not just about the ending to this story, but how it kept moving forward—why everything wasn’t enough for these already-wealthy teens, who already had plenty of nice things. Why the need to literally wear everything their idols wore, down to their lingerie? Why steal a box full of Bloom’s Rolexes if they had nowhere to sell them? What, after all, was the point of so much crime? Of having so much stuff? It’s the kind of question Coppola asks over and over again in her films, and here, it’s especially poignant—and especially disturbing.

The film is told through the point-of-view of Marc (Israel Broussard; the film doesn’t use the teenagers’ real names, but a quick online search will tell you Marc is supposed to be Nick Prugo, one of the only Bling Ring teens to admit to every crime the police suspected them of, and more), a slightly chubby, slightly awkward teenager who was kicked out of his regular high school for excessive absences. On his first day at his new “dropout” school for other troubled teens, he meets the well-dressed, slightly vacant Rebecca (Katie Chang), who immediately is friendlier to him than anyone else, and her foul-mouthed, hip-hop-loving friend Chloe (Claire Julien), who blasts rap in her car and drives them to the beach to smoke weed. And so it goes for some time—going to school, talking about fashion, discussing celebrities, smoking weed—until Marc tells Rebecca that one of their other rich friends is out of town, and Rebecca asks Marc to drive them to the kid’s house, and then she nonchalantly finds an open door and strolls in. She pockets a crystal figure. She pockets thousands in cash. She is taking things and then Marc is taking things and then their friendship is assigned a a new kind of purpose, a partnership not only based on being the cool kids at school but also on being the most bad.

They go to Kitson and buy loads of stuff, and then they go home and talk about Chanel and Miu Miu, and then they decide to do the stealing thing all over again—but at more famous people’s homes, and with more of their friends. And so home-schooled girls Nicki (Emma Watson, of “This is the End,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “My Week with Marilyn,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1” and “2”, and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) join in, and then they’re hitting up Hilton’s house—she did leave a spare key under the welcome mat, after all—and going to clubs and doing more and more cocaine and finding fewer and fewer places to stash all their stolen stuff. It’s getting rapidly, insanely out of hand, and yet they don’t stop. Instead, they just keep repeating what they want—”I wanna get some Victoria’s Secret model clothes”; “I wanna be hot, but not desperate”—and never thinking about how maybe what you want is very rarely what you actually need.

What Coppola pulls off so excellently with this film is drawing the audience in to this ridiculous wealth, putting viewers in the position of the teenagers, and then making us question ourselves, why we’re so enthralled, why we’re so caught up. Hilton actually allowed Coppola to film in her house and appears in a cameo, and her packed-full closets of designer clothes, accessories, and shoes are certainly envy-inducing; a wide, long-held shot of reality star Audrina Partridge’s home, with an industrial design and a huge pool, emphasizes its extravagance. But then we get the behavior of the teens, so cold and calculating and vacuous, and you can’t help but be disgusted with yourself.

The film depends on these performances, and thankfully, they’re excellent: Broussard is the only sympathetic one around, a kid with a baby face who you really believe when he says of his relationship with Rebecca, “I loved her, I really do”; in contrast, Chang nails it as the detached, vapid Rebecca, willing to throw anyone under the bus to protect herself. But Watson and Julien are scene-stealers, and the former’s Nicki is especially wonderful. Whether she’s bored and complaining “Jude Law keeps texting me” or trying to sway reporters to her side (“I have, like, a good statement to say”), she’s a perfect embodiment of the kind of lifestyle the movie is tearing apart. The girl is so convinced of her own worth that she’ll do anything to maintain it, whether that’s lie, cheat, or steal; she’s so self-enthralled that the possibility of anyone not lusting after or adoring her is unthinkable. It’s not a long-term way of living your life, and “The Bling Ring” delights in poking holes in it. And man, what gaping holes they are.

Enjoy reading this review? Check out our roundup of what other films are opening this week.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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