Very American, Yet Very L.A. Specific
The Venice Film Festival has come and gone. Toronto has just wrapped up and Philadelphia, New York, and London will soon follow suit in October. Many projects to look forward to. I know many viewers are eagerly awaiting Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla which is to be released on November 4th. I’m really excited about it too and so I thought this might be a good time to catch up on some of Coppola’s other films. I’ve chosen to review The Bling Ring because it is effortlessly entertaining and hilarious in a way that’s very “American” to say the least. Maybe it’s very “American” now but at the time of its 2013 summer release, it was very “L.A. specific”.
The Bling Ring is the true story about a series of burglaries in L.A. carried out by 5 spoiled teenagers with clearly nothing better to do than break into various celebrity homes and rob people of designer fashion, jewelry, and one time, a car. The group consists of Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga), and Chloe (Claire Julien). Rebecca was definitely the ringleader. Already friends with Nicki, Sam, and Chloe, she befriends the shy Marc who's new in town where they bond over their mutual fascination with the luxurious lifestyles they see in magazines. Rebecca persuades Marc to sneak away with her at a party and they check the doors of cars on the street and take cash and credit cards from the unlocked vehicles.
Not long after introducing Marc to the rest of the group, Rebecca convinces her new tech-savvy friend to find the address of a wealthy acquaintance (Hinted to be one of his father’s clients) on Google Maps. Knowing the client is in Jamaica, she convinces him to join her in breaking into the empty house where they take a designer handbag, cash, and the keys to a Porsche they use to flee the area. They go on a huge shopping spree the next day, buying things they admired in the magazines.
After reading on social media that Paris Hilton is hosting a party in Las Vegas that night, Rebecca playfully asks where she lives. Once Marc finds her address, Rebecca suggests finding a way in. They arrive at her mansion after dark and find a key under the mat which Rebecca makes a copy of and puts the original back so Paris would never know it was gone.
Rebecca brags to the others about how “Easy” it was to just walk into Paris’s house and says they can go back anytime, they just have to know when she’s out of town. She excites them with promises of luxury things and a fun time. One more visit turns into two, then two into three, and soon, they all become addicted to the thrill of their new secret. The more items they rob, the more celebrities they rob since they eventually have to start over from scratch.
The first time they ALL go to Paris’s home is really when they completely fall under the spell of what they are doing. They can’t stop gawking at the luxury and they drink her liquor as they literally RAID her closet.
Nicki: OH MY GOD!!
Chloe: THIS IS SO SICK!!
Nicki: Woah! Look at all her Louis Vuitton! Her feet are so big!
Sam: Look at all the mirrors!
Rebecca: She enjoys looking at herself.
Each robbery is executed with a tone that’s only funny because these kids are SO STUPID. It’s really very frightening, their selfishness and the level of fascination they have for celebrity culture. I remember feeling surprised they got away with it for as long as they did but lots of people STILL leave keys under their mats and it’s safe to assume most people don’t use certain technology until they’re violated and realize they should have had secured their homes long before. Technology advances every other second. The security the wealthy use now isn’t the security they used back in the late 2000s/early 2010s.
As is the case with most thieves, their entitlement is their downfall. They literally sell half their stolen goods on the Venice boardwalk in broad daylight and drunkenly laugh about their crimes to bewildered partygoers at mutual gatherings. The shot of them dressed like royalty walking down Beverly Hills drinking Starbucks iced coffees sums it all up perfectly: If they want something, then they’ll have it. Why wouldn’t they IF they simply WANT it? That kind of selfishness has not diminished since the scandal. The more people take, the more they want, and with it comes the rationalization of, “we deserve it”.
After realizing they may have made one too many trips to Paris’s home, they decide to “expand their clientele”….I mean victims….and rob the homes of Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr, Audrina Patridge and Megan Fox where they make away with millions of dollars in stolen items including seven of Bloom’s Rolex watches and an entire bag of jewelry from the other residences.
Naturally, they all get caught and give different versions of the events to the detectives, trying to implicate the other. Marc calls Rebecca from jail and Sam is Nicki’s adopted sister so they live together but other than that, they cease all communication with one another. Initially, they all express fright during the arrests but soon realize that THEY are now being talked about and decide to enjoy their newfound fame and make it last for as long as possible.
Rebecca: Did you speak to any of the victims?
Detective: I’ve spoken to all the victims.
Rebecca: REALLY?! What did Lindsay say?
Coppola’s writing and direction are completely on the money (No pun intended). She knew precisely the story she wanted to tell and ensured The Bling Ring had a documentary-like tone and just let the material speak for itself. All 5 actors really sell the believability of their character’s toxicities and disregard for basic morals but Chang and Watson are truly the standouts of the film. Especially Watson who has some of the film’s juiciest dialogue. The presence she has on screen is extremely magnetic and she maintains this natural charisma that’s very addictive.
Most known for her iconic role in the Harry Potter Franchise, I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of Harry Potter but I’ve always admired Watson. The toxicity of Hollywood has never succeeded in swallowing her up and she’s seemed to remain a genuine feminist and a humble person. Completely the opposite of her role in The Bling Ring. She’s been on a break from the industry for a few years now and aside from The Bling Ring, I’ve admired her performances in Colonia, Regression, Little Women, Ballet Shoes, and My Week With Marilyn. Hopefully, she’ll be ready to come back to our screens when the strike ends. Unlike Nicki, people still WANT to see her.
Of course, Nicki wouldn’t need a break from the camera. The final scene is her on a talk show preaching about her new site where her “Fans” can learn all about her “Journey”. Sam on the other hand is the only one who didn’t appear on camera in any of the final surveillance footage so she’s not on trial. She helps Nicki get ready for court where they both know swarms of paparazzi will be waiting.
Nicki: Where are my kitten heels?
Sam: Over there.
Nicki: (Sarcastically as she puts them on) You are so lucky you weren’t in that video.
Sam: …………It really sucks.
Nicki: (Smiling smugly as she puts the last heel on) Yeah. It does.
The Bling Ring is literally the musical Chicago for Gen Z. Nicki presents herself as a spiritual guru who is a victim of falling in with a bad crowd. She wears a designer suit and sunglasses and holds her purse like she’s the Queen of England as she walks towards the front of the courthouse. You can practically hear her heels right before they touch the red bricks of the sidewalk. Her silly mother (The Other Woman’s Leslie Mann) seems to be enjoying the scandal too. “Don’t forget to take your anxiety vitamins honey” she says as they get out of the car.
Nicki turns around and faces the press whose cameras are as loud as fire alarms. The shouting of her name stops when they see her about to speak.
Nicki: This has been a very difficult time for me and my family. Thank you for respecting my privacy. I look forward to my day in court.
She walks into the courthouse and the press is still there when she leaves. She sobs in Sam’s arms as they walk across the parking lot.
Press: Nicki! How did it go?
Nicki: (Tears soaking down her privileged face) IT WAS NOT GOOD!
Nicki’s mom: (Holding her hand up as she makes her way to the car) OK, thank you.
The next shot is the front of their house the next morning
Nicki’s mom: NICKI! Kate from Vanity Fair is here!... Can I get you something to drink?
Nicki continues to use the scandal to her advantage. The next time she goes to court, she looks even more elegant.
Nicki: I’m a firm believer in Karma and I think this situation was brought into my life as a huge learning lesson for me, to grow and expand as a spiritual human being. I want to lead an entire charity organization. I want to lead a country one day for all I know.
………………………………… Well, Nicki, by now, we’ve had a president who was a judge on “Celebrity Apprentice” so if you still want to lead a country, you’ve just as good a chance as anyone else.
And that’s the truth.
Isn’t that sad?
It’s not as though there aren’t so many reasonable young people out there who are more than capable of thinking for themselves but role models are always helpful guides in life and it’s so laughable what so many people are so interested in half the time.
I was in NYC a week ago to help my brother move into his new apartment. We went to dinner with my mom where we discussed the current state of our world and this epidemic amongst our political divide and the kind of criteria many should expect from our leaders. I don’t remember if “Vain” was the exact word she used but it was something along that line, she noted that we live in a very materialistic society, a time of self-importance and instant gratification, and that it’s no wonder that people don’t feel any sense of desire out of love & respect, common decency or moral duty to take care of others.
She really got quite upset about it and I thought of this as I rewatched The Bling Ring today. As hilarious as the film is, it’s WHY it’s taking so many laughs from me that’s making me think. Many of us have dark humor and thank god for it because it does help us digest tough subject matters. Am I laughing because I’m uncomfortable? Or am I just afraid of what’s to come? If you don’t identify with certain attributes of your generation, can you just take it off like a pair of shoes and remain confident in following your own value system? Or is it not that simple? Why is it so easy to be influenced in an era where disagreements are a daily expectancy? Or does influence even exist anymore? Maybe those involved in the Bling Ring were never influenced by celebrity culture at all. Maybe it doesn’t even exist. Maybe they just did what they did SIMPLY because they could. Because it was easy.
I’m sure many of you who decide to watch or rewatch The Bling Ring will reassure yourselves by pointing out that today’s securities and technology make it harder for crimes like that of The Bling Ring to be carried out but what if it’s the opposite? What if it’s been made easier? It’s never been easier to find out where someone lives. If all a person has to do to get what they want is to take, they WILL take.
And they'll do it very quickly.
Acast. (2023, September 22). The Bling Ring. https://shows.acast.com/. https://shows.acast.com/imdweed/episodes/theblingringw-rebeccarobinson