The Bling Ring: one day, we’ll be embarrassed to say we were there
Sofia Coppola’s latest release immortalises in celluloid the tale of a group of Hollywood teens who broke in – unnoticed – to a host of celebrities’ homes and got away with billions of dollars worth of designer goods. But is it any cop?
There are very few movies I actively hate. Against all the odds, Diary of a Shopaholic is one. Now I can add Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring to that short list.
Based on an article and then book by Nancy Jo Sales, it tells the true story of a group of middle-class teens who decided – aided by the internet and gossip sites like TMZ and DListed – to burglarise (such an awful Americanisation, but accurate) the homes of celebrities including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Miranda Kerr.
The truly frightening thing about the robberies, and the thing that makes the film so crass and, ultimately, disturbing, is the fact that most of the victims didn’t realise that they had been robbed. The group entered Paris Hilton’s Beverly Hills home more than five times, taking bags, shoes and jewellery on each visit.
Once you’ve heard the story – which we all have – the film loses its intrigue. Sure, it’s slick and highly stylised, but a bit like watching an hour-and-a-half-long music video: boring. It’s hard to feel sympathy for either victim (poor Paris, so many shoes she doesn’t know when several pairs are missing) or misguided teenage miscreant (although you do come close, when you realise that Emma Watson’s character, Nicki Moore, is home schooled by her mother, based on the teachings of The Secret).
The most disturbing thing about the film is that, for a lot of us, it’s eerily close to real life. I recognised all of the celebrities the girls were obsessed with; I knew all of the fashion labels they longed to possess. I knew the name of Paris’s dog, and that she had a pet monkey; I knew that Rachel Bilson had a large collection of Chanel 2.55 handbags, and that Lindsay Lohan’s sartorial poison was Hervé Léger. I also saw myself and my peers in a lot of these teens’ actions: rich, white girls singing along to Kanye West as if he had written the lyrics just for them; snapping selfie after selfie in a dimly lit nightclub; nasty dancing to R&B in a sweaty nightclub.
It was, of course, their self-obsession and narcissism that was their downfall. Thinking themselves invincible, they told all and sundry of their visits to Paris and just where they’d got their new duds; they even posted photographs of themselves on Facebook wearing these celebrities’ clothes and waving their hundred-dollar bills around.
Though I hated what I saw of myself in The Bling Ring, as swords go, this one is definitely double-edged. I emerged, blinking, into the Dublin light and thought, “consumerism is bad”. Then I thought, “I’m never buying a designer item again”. I looked at my Pauric Sweeney bag and felt nauseous. Then I thought, “I wish I was as thin and hot as Emma Watson – I bet if I robbed Paris’s house I wouldn’t fit into anything”.
Because whether or not that was the intention, Coppola’s achievement is in glamorising further this already exalted lifestyle. Perhaps she’s simply too close to the subject – as evidenced by cameos in the film by Kirsten Dunst and Paris Hilton (the scenes in Paris’s house are actually filmed in Paris’s house, Paris cushions an’ all) - to be truly objective.
Have you seen The Bling Ring? Are you going to?