Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann
Running time: 90 minutes
Release date: July 5
This year, two of “alternative” cinema’s most beloved turned their hands to teen films. Harmony Korine gave us Spring Breakers featuring former Disney sweetheart Selena Gomez prancing about in a bikini, doing drugs, with a gun. Similarly, Sofia Coppola presents The Bling Ring, complete with former Harry Potter actress Emma Watson coiled around a stripper pole, doing drugs. Oh yes, lest we forget—with a gun.
It all syncs up nicely with the current pop cultural obsessions: partying, that irritating “YOLO” mantra, documenting everything through “selfies”, tweets and Facebook updates. So far, so 2013.
The Bling Ring is based on the true story of the Hollywood burglaries of 2009, when the homes of stars like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom were robbed of $3 million worth of goodies. Instead of a gang of hardened criminals, as the world expected, the perpetrators were a bunch of bored, celebrity-obsessed, upper middle class teens.
The film is the second big post-Potter venture for Emma Watson, who was lost amongst more talented co-stars in last year’s Perks of Being a Wallflower. This year, it’s all about her. Trashed up in ratty hair extensions, a tramp stamp and a Juicy Couture tracksuit, Watson has a whale of a time as Nikki, a particularly fame-hungry member of the Bling Ring.
She brings just the right amount of humour to the role, trilling Nikki’s more self-deluded lines with visible glee. Next to rest of the group, played by newcomers, her years of experience elevate her to scene-stealer.
Watson is given great support by Leslie Mann as her airy-fairy mother, who homeschools her children on the teachings of The Secret. Far from being appalled at her daughter’s exploits, she revels in the attention—excitedly alerting Nikki to the arrival of a journalist from Vanity Fair, prepping her for court like she’s going to an audition.
In a largely unpublicised turn, Gavin Rossdale (Mr Gwen Stefani) appears as a shady nightclub owner. True to his previous attempts at acting, he’s upstaged by a tray of Rolexes, and later on a pair of silk boxers. Too bad, Gav.
The Bling Ring carries all the hallmarks of a Sofia Coppola film. Her fascination with bedrooms looms large, both in the rooms of her protagonists, which are carefully crafted to reflect the characters that inhabit them, and the bedrooms of the celebrities they steal from. As always, her characters are bored, beautiful and troubled. And then, we have the carefully chosen, ultra-modern soundtrack, this time featuring MIA, Azealia Banks and Frank Ocean.
You could say The Bling Ring is a critique of celebrity culture. The characters’ obsession with fame and material wealth leads them down dark paths, so fame = bad, yes? Maybe not. We see the main characters achieving what they desired above all the clothes and jewellery—their 15 seconds of fame. Maybe that’s why The Bling Ring feels empty at times (another Coppola hallmark). What am I supposed to be learning here?
But wait a second: The Bling Ring is silly summer fun. Maybe we shouldn’t have to learn anything.