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‘The Bling Ring’ indicts the real-life devils who stole Prada

‘THE BLING RING’ ★★★½

Rebecca Katie Chang

Marc Israel Broussand

Nicki Emma Watson

Sam Taissa Farmiga

Nicki’s mom Leslie Mann

Chloe Claire Julien

Ricky Gavin Rossdale

A24 presents a film directed by Sofia Coppola. Written by Coppola and Nancy Jo Sales. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated R (for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references). Opening Friday at Landmark Century Cinemas.

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Updated: July 22, 2013 3:53PM



Deep into a string of burglarizing the homes of a half-dozen Hollywood celebrities, the band of vapid, casually criminal teenagers known as “The Bling Ring” enter the stunning glass box home of a new target, Audrina Patridge.1

Director Sofia Coppola gives us a hill’s-eye view of the house, as the intruders scurry about like characters from “The Sims,” sliding doors open and shut, turning lights on and off, squirreling items away and then dashing into the night.

It’s a simple, static shot, without dialogue — only by the sounds of cricket, sirens, choppers and a summer night in the city. And like much of “The Bling Ring,” there’s something equal parts comically fascinating and terribly off-putting about the proceedings.

Who ARE these brats, and where did they get their sense of entitlement?

In “The Bling Ring,” the wealthy and the famous are on the fringes of the story, appearing in TV news footage of red carpet events, smiling as the cameras explode, oblivious to their homes being robbed by a bunch of bored, mostly middle-class teenagers who learned when the celebrities were out of town (and where they lived) via a Google search — and broke into the houses either by using a key left under the mat or finding an unlocked door.

You’d think Paris Hilton2, with all those things she owns and all that fame she possesses, would have a security guard posted or at least an elaborate alarm system activated any time she was out of town. You’d be wrong.

Based on true events and truthful to the Vanity Fair article (titled “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”) and subsequent book by Nancy Jo Sales, “The Bling Ring” is a sly, often hilarious and at times sobering look at the 21st century fascination with celebrities — whether they’ve actually done something, or they’re shallow ninnies famous for being famous — and the nearly transparent line that separates those in the limelight and those following their every move in Us and on TMZ.

Israel Broussard delivers a nuanced performance as Marc, a troubled, somewhat disheveled kid with an eye for fashion who endures only about 15 minutes of new-kid-in-school ostracism before he’s adopted by Rebecca (Katie Chang), an effortlessly beautiful girl who wears her blank expression like armor. Bored between bouts of clubbing and partying, Rebecca has a habit of breaking into cars and homes in her neighborhood, pocketing cash and drugs, instantly accessorizing, and casually trying on other people’s clothes as if she’s at the local mall.

Flipping through celebrity magazines, trolling the Internet, hanging at the beach, Rebecca and her pals talk endlessly about their favorite actors and reality stars, referring to them by their first names as if they actually know them. In Rebecca’s twisted, shallow-end-of-the-pool worldview, it makes perfect sense to merge her kleptomania with her celebrity obsession.

The shoes of Paris Hilton! The watches of Orlando Bloom!3 The clothes of Miranda Kerr!4 The bras of Rachel Bilson!5 The things of Lindsay Lohan!6

All there, just there for the taking.

These kids are not geniuses. They wear the clothes and shoes they steal to parties, they brag about their exploits, they sell the loot to local scumbags — and they keep on committing burglaries, even after some of the show-biz websites and TV shows start running stories about the Bling Ring.

(Displaying either a cheeky sense of humor or a stunning lack of awareness, Paris Hilton even allowed Coppola to film inside her actual home, a stunningly vulgar monument to all things Paris. This house should be preserved intact, as a museum, for future generations to tour and study.)

Rebecca’s the most fearless of the group, but she’s hardly a mastermind, although she’s a genius, compared to Nicki (Emma Watson) and her two sisters, one of whom isn’t really a sister. (In the case of Nicki and her sisters and their new- age mother, played by Leslie Mann, Coppola actually scales back from the real-life madness. In reality or what passes for it in the lives of these people, the characters who inspired Nicki and her family were the subject of a grotesque, obviously manipulated “reality show” in which the Bling Ring subplot was prominently featured.)

“The Bling Ring” doesn’t spend a lot of time delving into the motivations of these thing-obsessed brats. Their parents and step-parents are portrayed as blissfully unaware sitcom dolts. The kids seem to have no moral compass, no adult role models in their lives. They just want to be famous, like the stars they so admire — and they want all that great stupid stuff without having to work for it.

Sofia Coppola comes from Hollywood royalty, and her best films are about celebrity, whether she’s painting a melancholy portrait of Bill Murray’s veteran action star in “Lost in Translation,” dropping in on the restless life of an actor who has just “blown up” in the underrated “Somewhere,” or jazzing up the story of that 18th century celebutante, Marie Antoinette. She knows this stuff and knows how to examine it from a fresh perspective.

As much as I admire this work, part of me wishes they’d never made a movie about the Bling Ring. Sure, there’s mockery of the subjects and they get their comeuppance, but one gets the feeling these fame-seeking heat missiles won’t get that. They’ll just like the “famous” part.



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