For a period of almost a year in 2008/2009, five LA County high school students broke in to the homes of several celebrities, netting almost $3 million dollars in ill-gotten gains. Oddly, however, the burglaries were not entirely financially motivated. Instead of targeting the most valuable items, the group focused on high fashion clothing and accessories in order to emulate the style of the celebrities they worshipped.
Sofia Coppola takes their story and turns it into a film that’s part heist movie, and part critique of today’s culture of celebrity worship, fame and materialism.
When Marc Hall (Israel Broussard) transfers to a new alternative high school, he falls in with Rebecca Ahn (Katie Chang). The two share a love of fashion and celebrity gossip. They both also love a touch of risky behavior. One night after a party, they check every car on the street to see if they’re unlocked, and steal cash and credit cards from the ones that aren’t. Soon after, on of Marc’s friend’s family goes away for a week, and Rebecca convinces him that they should break in to their house. They do, and rewarded with finding a large roll of cash. They even take the family’s sports car for a joyride.
Flush with success, the two wonder about robbing Paris Hilton when they see in the media that she’ll be out of town for the weekend. They pull up her address on the internet, view it on Google Earth and wonder to themselves, what are the chances she leaves a key under the mat?
Entering Hilton’s home, the two step into an entirely different world of wealth and possessions. Entire rooms are full of shoes and purses. Her wardrobe is the size of a department store clothing section. She even has her own nightclub in her house. The two take a number of items, but considering the sheer volume of Hilton’s possessions, it’s unlikely that they’ll be missed.
When they return with the story to their friends, everyone is amazed. They want to go themselves. Their circle expands to include Nicki Moore (Emma Watson), her adopted sister Sam Moore (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe Tayner (Claire Julien). Together, the five begin a string of robberies based on tracking celebrity trips away from home. Aside from the rush of the robberies themselves, they find themselves outfitted in the most trendy and expensive clothes, and funded with plenty of cash.
Will the authorities catch up with them? What will be the price they have to pay?
“The Bling Ring” was a fascinating film, for me. These are five kids who are into partying and drugs, and . The parents in the film are clueless, inattentive and occasionally outright absent. The celebrity victims leave their homes unguarded and unlocked… literally inviting intruders and thieves. The celeb infatuated thieves eventually find a measure of celebrity themselves (including, in real life, a short-lived reality tv show). Through it all there’s the tension of the break-ins and the mind-boggling naiveté of the thieves, who don’t exactly make secret of what they’ve been doing amongst their friends and schoolmates.
Coppola chooses a rather conventional directing style to tell the tale without adding on a layer of flash and effects. She’s not heavy-handed with any sort of message, either, she merely recreates the events and let the viewer bring their own interpretations. The kids are left to run wild for themselves in a world of glitz and glamour that celebrates “more”, while the victims have SO much wealth that at times they don’t even recognize they’ve been robbed.
I found it a compelling film.