Based on a true story, The Bling Ring follows a group of LA teens who in 2008 and 2009 became notorious for robbing the houses of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Audrina Partridge, Lindsey Lohan and Orlando Bloom. Marc (Israel Broussard) is a lonely young man (who’s also gay, but the film doesn’t really deal with that) who finally feels connected when he meets Rebecca (Katie Chang). She gets him involved in petty crime, which eventually grows until they break into Paris Hilton’s place.
Initially they don’t take much, but as more people get drawn into the break-ins, such as the fame-obsessed Nicki (Emma Watson), they begin to take more and more from their celebrity targets, both to accentuate their wardrobes and fence the goods. While they do want to steal, for them it’s just as much about touching the lives of the celebrities their generation worships.
It’s difficult to make a successful film about vanity and the surface lure of celebrity, as trying to get deep about the superficial is a tough ask. The Bling Ring sometimes handles things quite well, going into the problems with celebrity-obsessed modern culture and how these young people both want to be the people they rob and yet there’s also a side where they feel free to target these celebs as they’re not quite real people to them.
However most of the time it doesn’t really go very far into its subject, to the point there are moments where it almost seems to be as obsessed with celebrity as the kids are, and that what it does have to say has been said many times before. Interesting ideas are touched upon – such as the youngsters becoming mini-celebrities themselves due to what they did – but it doesn’t really go anywhere with it. It’s incredibly interesting tale and the film is extremely watchable, but at the end it doesn’t really add up to a lot – well, sort of.
There is actually a whole other side of the movie that you don’t get by watching it, as you can only understand it by viewing the features. It’s a rare case where the extras are as interesting as the movie and add layers that the film itself can’t really do on its own. For a start, in the ‘Behind The Real Bling Ring’ documentary it’s revealed that three of the kids ended up getting massively reduced sentences because one of the cops involved in the case was found to be consulting on the movie, which was in development before the teens went to trial. The fact the movie is actually part of the story isn’t really dealt with in the film, but adds an intriguing extra layer.
Then there’s Paris Hilton, who’s on hand for an interview where she comes across as much smarter and pleasant than she often appears. She actually allowed Sophia Coppola to film in her house, in the actual rooms the Bling Ring robbed. It introduces a fascinating conflict of interest, as you can see both the film and the filmmakers being fascinated by this place and its celebration of opulence, yet neither Coppola nor Hilton seem to acknowledge that it’s this sort of love of expensive, showy things that is part of the problem the movie is looking at. Hilton is quite correct that people shouldn’t have robbed her, but there seems little understanding that a culture that would create a house like hers is as much of a problem as a media that believes a celeb getting a baby bump is important news.
And it’s then that you remember that Sophia grew up as the daughter of a famous director (The Godfather’s Francis Ford Coppola) and was inside the walls of Hollywood from her birth. The film makes more sense when viewed as something made from the perspective of Hollywood looking out, rather than as a detached overview – despite the fact that’s what it thinks it is. Those in Tinsel Town know celebrity culture is strange and wrong, but they also know it’s part of a business. There’s also a slight sense that growing up in privilege and around money makes it slightly difficult to detach yourself from that and to be able to truly understand the people looking outside who are looking in at the wealth and showy success – which the Bling Ring certainly were.
With the film alone, I thought it was okay but nothing particularly special, however the extras make it a more interesting and thought provoking disc. ‘Behind The Real Bling Ring’ in particular is a great look at the real people behind the crimes, but all the features are worth watching.
Overall Verdict: A great story made into a decent film, but surprisingly it’s the special features that actually help bring more depth and layers to a movie that actually became part of the story.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac