It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know your Dolce & Gabbana from your Louis Vuitton, Sofia Coppola’s film The Bling Ring – based on real-life events – is about the effects of celebrity coveting by a younger, impressionable generation, where materialistic goods plug something seriously lacking more often than not. What seems relatively ‘harmless’ as getting the latest fashion/lifestyle mag showing what’s hot and what’s not gets a sinister big-screen outing in this film. Nonetheless, it’s not probing or controversial enough, in terms of suggesting any true psychological effect, and is again about instant gratification with its slick soundtrack rather than anything substantial. The only real positive to come out of this film is some impressive performances from a bunch of relative newcomers, and Emma Watson carving an exciting new acting groove.
Teenager Rebecca (Katie Chang) teams up with new best mate Marc (Israel Broussard) to find stars’ homes and rob them of their ‘bling’ (clothes, handbags, shoes, accessories etc) when the famous occupants are away. Soon the group expands to include Lindsay Lohan-loving Nicki (Watson) and sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga). However, caught on CCTV, their days are numbered. One day the partying has to end…
Our insatiable appetite to know the most personal details of celebrities is what’s at the heart of this film that spends a lot of the time showing off its merchandise – including the nubile forms of its young stars. What starts out as exciting, baring in mind the ‘based on real events’ part, is how ‘samey’ one scene becomes compared to the next – a series of ‘find the pad, raid the pad and party with the loot afterwards’, with little to say at the bitter end. That said, as apparently superficial as it all feels, there is still a healthy curiosity throughout as to ‘who has a closet like this’, and the number of Aladdin’s Caves uncovered are quite spectacular, particularly from Paris Hilton, a victim in real-life.
Another feeling you go away with is how little empathy you have for the (gullible) victims like Ms Hilton who carelessly leave their residences woefully unlocked and unsecured. With a very ‘on-the-fence’ finale from Coppola that doesn’t suggest a point of view on what has transpired, this feeling is further increased. There is a morbid sense of hopelessness for civilised humanity that goes with it, too. It’s an odd and bleak comedown after all the short-lived thrills experienced throughout. There doesn’t feel like any consequence or lessons learned, re-emphasising how futile an exercise the whole film is, however brilliant the acting is. The cast carry what is effectively a rather flimsy premise and this is the film’s disappointment after offering up a fascinating synopsis.
As with celebrity culture, the thrill of The Bling Ring is short, sharp and easily forgettable later on. If nothing else, do catch it for the performances and Ms Hilton’s real-life bling-packed treasure troves but don’t expect to gain much significance from it, albeit some fashion tips.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie